May 24, 2005

The End of the World is nigh

I am not habitually superstitious and view the following as a source of interest rather than as anything to be taken literally. However: walking past a newsagent's window earlier today my gaze was arrested by the cover story of Horoscope magazine, (which also happened to be irradiated by a ray of sunlight that beamed its way between two rooftops to illuminate the corner of the aforesaid store front where the aforesaid magazine was displayed.) In bold type read the title: Pope Benedict XVI spells the Apocalypse.

Upon further online investigation I found myself rather gripped by this Nostrodamian affair. Notwithstanding the fact that Ratzinger's election as pontiff took a conclave of 115 cardinals, four rounds of voting and followed a lifetime of service to the Vatican, it would appear that, according to Internet doomsayers and a 12th century Catholic prophecy by St. Malachy – an Irish archbishop, at least, that Jugement day shall be upon us in the near and not too distant future.

Apparently St. Malachy was said to have had a vision during a trip to Rome around 1139 of the remaining 112 Popes. Benedict XVI is number 111 on that list. He is also described in a text attributed to St. Malachy as the "Glory of the Olive". What's the connection? I hear you ask. Well Malachy-watchers point to the choice of the name Benedict -an allusion to the Order of St. Benedict, a branch of which is known as the Olivetans. Others have speculated that the new pope will be a peacemaker in the Church or in the world and will therefore carry the olive branch.

Critics widely dismiss the Malachy prophecy as a forgery and possible propaganda meant to influence a 16th century conclave. Doses of scepticism even appear on the most energetic Malachy web pages.
But believers point out some startling similarities between the prophecy's descriptions and past pontificates: John Paul II, number 110, was described in the prophecy as "de labore solis" – or "of the labour of the sun". Strikingly he was born on May 18, 1920, the same day as a solar eclipse and was buried on April 8, 2005 – the same day as a partial eclipse, visible in the Americas.

More pressing for doomsayers, however, are the prophecy's references to the last Pope on the list, Peter the Roman, who will lead the Church before "the formidable judge will judge his people". Given that Benedict is already 78 years old, Peter the Roman must be coming soon, and with him, it would seem, the end of the world.


- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. I don't know – it just seems slightly too convenient to be able to find 'evidence' to fit prophesies. I'm sure if you wanted you could justify almost anything using the random events that occur in this world of ours – take people who believe in horoscopes: it's perfectly possible to find things in your life to fit these predictions because they're so generalised.

    Anyway, if you start worrying when your life is going to end you'll probably stop living it to the full, so it's probably best not to think about it!

    24 May 2005, 11:36

  2. I can't say I don't entirely agree with what you write in the first half of your comment. E.g. according to the horoscope for my star sign this month: 'your month has being doing something peculiar lately. It's operating without your consent, even though your mind has been trying to turn it off. Just surrender. If you're feeling it, you'll say it.' Yeah, OK - so I have exams, that have 'operated my month without my consent and my mind has been trying to turn (them) off' – every time it wanders off revision and onto the various moral messages underlying the last film I watched, or indeed the best way to make stick figures out of blue-tac. I suppose you could see it that way ;-) What the last sentence of the horoscope alludes to, however, is beyond me and, I emphatically aver, that was the first time I read my horoscope for several years – I don't believe in them.

    However, with regard to your last sentence, I disagree somewhat. I think a pinch of anxiety, whether over our own mortality or other hopefully more immediate problems is healthy and indeed allows us to strategically organise our lives, assess risk, and improve our capacity to survive. Conversely I believe the expectation prevalent in society that one should live one's life to the full not only promotes stress, mental strains and disallusionment but is moreover unsustainable and dangerous, not only for our own well-being but for that of society as a whole. Perhaps I should have included at the foot of my entry that the Malachy prophesy would provide a timely Catholic smokescreen for other crises potentially facing us in the 21st Century that are supported by mainstream scientific evidence, such as climate change and possibly also a Malthusian catastrophe.

    24 May 2005, 16:53

  3. That really depends on how you define 'living your life to the full'. If you read it to mean living each moment as if is was your last with no regard to the future, then yes it is indeed unsustainable. I perhaps used the wrong phrase in this situation, and my second paragraph was somewhat offhand. Concerning yourself with the future is productive if it lends a purpose to the decisions you make and gives you motivation to better yourself. However, worrying about events that are out of our control and planning our lives around unsubstantiated theories is very damaging.

    24 May 2005, 20:07

  4. I confess I have spent far too much time pondering anxiously over doom-ridden global projections, even though time spent in this way on my part is of questionable value. My control over such events may be indeed represented as one drop of water in an vast ocean and mine have indeed been the destructive thoughts of a pontifficating neurotic. Thus, I consider it more productive to look at the situation proactively: that the individual self reponsabilty and accountability collectively necessary to maintain our survival may be realised in a more egalitarian world where individuals are intelligent and financially independent – yet no less experienced – and thereby responsible for their actions. Perhaps I find it difficult to separate the drops from the ocean or the wood from the trees but it is nonetheless indisputable that we, as individuals, are indispensable components of the greater whole and must accomplish more than we are individually accomplishing at present in terms of selflessness if our future survival is to be secured. Alas, I jest not, the arrogant, stubborn sod that I am, but rather raise my glass to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose boasts, for his part, a swimming pool.

    25 May 2005, 00:23


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