The Papal conclave, which began this morning in Rome, continues to garner unprecedented attention worldwide, among the world's 1.2 billion Catholics and beyond, due to the prevalence of electronic media and the controversey in the Church today as the conclave convenes. But never before have paranormal prophecies colored the deliberations as they are today.
The cardinals--heads of local regional Catholic churches--around the world who have gathered have been exposed to the public as in no previous enclave. Catholics, Christians of every denomination, church leaders of non-Christian faiths, national leaders, activists. All wait for the smoke to rise from one of two chimneys that have been installed on the roof of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, where Cardinals are meeting for the first time today to vote for a new leader of the Catholic church. Cardinals will vote ceremoniously, writing their votes in Latin on pieces of paper which will be burned at the end of each vote. Those gathered in St. Peter's Square in Rome--and at televisions and other electronic devices around the world--will watch after the smoke rises from the first chimney, likely eliciting applause and cries of anticipation. Not long after, from the second chimney will arise either white or black smoke, signifying that no decision has been made (black) or that a new Holy Father has been chosen (white). Within approximately one hour, the new Pontiff will appear on the balcony at St. Peter's Square to bless the crowd and offer his first Papal blessing to the 1.2 billion Catholics and the world. It is expected that the new Pope's first Papal address will be a monumental one, addressing not only Catholics but the rest of the world, delivering a message to all who seek peace not only in the Church but across belief and political systems of every kind.
But not everyone has high hopes for the new papacy. In fact, long standing beliefs about the "Last Pope" haunt today's events, and long held prophecies from ancient and modern times color the events of today.
Saint Malachy is believed by many to have penned the prophechies about the Popes to come, while researchers believe that the writings are a 16th-century forgery because of the vagaries of the listings of Popes after approximately 1600.
Benedict XVI, No. 111, who stepped down from the Papal leadership in late February, was named in the Malachy propechies as the "glory of the olive." St. Benedict, who founded the Benedictine order, hosts a branch of monks and priests known as Olivetans.
But despite the stretch in attempting to pin Benedict to the prophecy, Benedict XVI shook end of the world theorists because he was the last Pope on Malachy's list of popes, number 111.
As Malachy wrote, after No. 111 will come the "final persecution of the Holy Roman Church" when there will rule "Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills (Jerusalem) will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people."
This prophecy has led many to venture that either Peter Turkson of Africa--a very highly hoped-for candidate--or an Italian not named Peter but a bow to the first "pope"--the apostle Peter, who Jesus named as head of the Church,--will be elected and usher in the end times.
Faithful who are following the prophecies believe that is the final and sweeping secularization of the Western word—with American efforts towards publicly-funded birth control and abortion, in vitro fertilization, the breakdown of vows among the faithful of the American clergy—that point to the “end times” of the Church, which forwards efforts for the sanctity and freedom of life under all circumstances and the purity of the clergy. The Church has locked horns more than ever the past year with American secular authorities.
The Malachy prophecies are hardly the first "last Pope" prophecies to fall on the ears of the faithful. Nostradamus himself pointed to the coming Pope to be the last one, but much more recently, during the Garabandal apparitions of the Virgin Mary of the 1960s, Spanish girls from a rural village gave the message translating to that there would be only three more Popes until the end of time. According to calculations based on their words, Blessed Pope John Paul II had been called the last Pope before the "end of time.” When questioned about the vagaries of the prophecy, the seer clarified that it would be "the end of time as we know it, but not the end of the world."
Part of the Garabandal prophecies included the message that the last Pope would witness a Miracle that would demonstrate to him beyond doubt that the end of time as we know it was near. No Pope, including John Paul or Benedict, has gone on record to state that he has seen the Miracle, but could Benedict have witnessed the Miracle that helped lead to his resignation?