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.