Friday, April 26, 2013

The World Is Always Coming To An End

No, I’m not quoting Yogi Berra, but it does seem a new apocalypse is predicted every year. I’ve lost count of how many world ending events I should have witnessed in my lifetime. I remember that in March of 1982 our planet was supposed to crack open from multiple earth quakes triggered by something called the Jupiter effect. Evidently, Jupiter and Saturn were predicted to align with disastrous consequences for earth. I survived the apocalypse of 2000. The infestation of Millennium bugs failed to bring the modern, computerized world to a halt, but it did do wonders for the gun industry. I’ve become so deaf to the sound of approaching hoof beats that I barely noticed the Mayan end of the world last year. But the world never stops ending, and now that we have a new Pope we have a new end of the world.

 Lignum Vitae, published in Venice in 1595
In 1595 a 12th century prophecy was discovered in the Vatican library. Allegedly written by the Archbishop of Armagh in the midst of a divine vision, sometime around 1143, the prophecy of St. Malachy purports to list every Pope from that year up to our own time. And, of course, the prophecy ends with an ominous warning. Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oues in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis ciuitas septicollis diruetur, & Iudex tremedus iudicabit populum suum. Finis. (Sorry, Latin was the universal language back then.) This translates to "Peter the Roman, will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his the people. The end." Since ancient times the city of Rome has been known as the city of seven hills, and since this document first surfaced some readers have interpreted ‘the end’ to mean the apocalypse. And guess what, folks. If you tick off all names and descriptions on this list, Pope Francis is the last on the list.

The prophecy of St. Malachy is a series of short, cryptic epithets, or mottoes, the Pope’s regal name, and a helpful explanation of the motto. For example, the first entry reads "from a castle on the Tiber, Celestine II, someone who lives in Tifernum." (I’m sparing you from the original Latin, but if you’re interested see the digital image below.) This makes perfect sense. Celestine II was born in Citta di Castello, city of the castle, on the river Tiber. An even clearer example is the entry for Pope Urban III. This translates to "a pig in a sieve, Urban III, of the Milanese of the Cribella family, which displays a pig for arms." (In other words, the Cribella family has a pig in a sieve for their coat of arms.) In fact, most of the entries from 1150 to 1590 are comparatively clear and unambiguous.

The Papal predictions after 1590 are another matter. For one thing, the list lacks regal names; the writer suddenly loses the ability to predict which regal name a Pope will choose. More tellingly, the mottoes suddenly become incredibly vague and ambiguous. My favorite, ‘religious man,’ is pinned to Pope Pius VIII. Can’t we presume that most, if not all, Popes would be religious? And this leads to the obvious observation that the more vague the motto, the easier to connect the prediction to whoever was elected Pope.

And so I’m left with the question that if this is a hoax, what was its purpose? Some historians have suggested a conspiracy to elect a particular Cardinal. According to this theory, one particular Cardinal thought that if a motto describing him was on a list with past Popes, and the list was advertised as a divine vision, the conclave would feel compelled to vote him to the Holy See.
So when Pope Francis passes away will the world pass with him? I would respectfully suggest that instead of searching for the answer in a prophecy of questionable providence, to simply read the Bible.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Mathew 7:15

But of that day and hour no one knoweth, not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone.
Mathew 24:36

For a more detailed analysis of the Prophecy of St. Malachy read Jimmy Akin’s article in the National Catholic Register.

Submitted by David Ryan
Business, Science & Technology Department
Central Library

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