The Pope’s resignation now announced and effective February 28 might be surprising to many but in reality, there is no doubt a secretive (yet generally known among Catholic clergy and theologians) Catholic eschatological process is a foot.
Both Catholic and Protestants agree that Jesus will return in what is commonly referred to as the Second coming of Christ and though there are several similarities in their eschatological (doctrine or theology of last things) views, there is also a divergence of views and interpretations as to how this will happen.
Without going too deep into the specifics at this point, Protestants in general hold to Biblical prophecy only; that is the basic 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. The Protestant eschatological view of the apocalypse is usually based on Daniel, Ezekiel, Jesus remarks on the last days in the gospels, First and Second Peter, First and Second Thessalonians and Revelation.
Basically, for Protestants, if it isn’t in the Bible, then it simply isn’t going to happen.
For Catholics however, there are several other criteria used in the development of their eschatological doctrine.
First the Bible used is slightly different. It was translated first from the Hebrew, Chaldean and Greek into Latin by Jerome and ultimately into English and includes the Apocrypha; that is those books written during the four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments.
Second, Catholic theology is open theology; that is, it is believed that God’s revelation is not closed and can continue throughout the ages among the church’s faithful from the Pope on down.
Even children have been given visions and the church acknowledges the prophetic status of such.
The well known visions or prophecies of Fatima are one such example. This was where a series of visions and prophecies were allegedly given by an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three young Portuguese children six times between May and October 1917.
The church officially saw this vision or prophecy as fulfilled in WW I, WW II and the attempted assassination of Pope Paul II.
A similar and more recent example was in Kibeho, Rwanda, where the Virgin Mary appeared to several children beginning in 1981. Calling herself the Mother of the Word, she delivered a series of profound messages, such as this: "The world has turned against God. We must repent and ask for pardon."
In other words, the church has prophecy of its own outside of the Bible but if acknowledged as official by the Pope, then it becomes part of the church’s theological view.
There have been many occasions in which a vision by a Cardinal, Monk, Priest, Nun or Bishop such as Malachy (mentioned in this writer’s previous article) become accepted by the church and are ultimately accepted as part of the church’s view of the end times.
Since the Catholic church acknowledges the Pope as literally the voice of God on earth, those decisions, statements, comments or prophecies made by him hold far greater weight than a simple paper on an eschatological event submitted by a Protestant theologian or pastor to his peers.
As a result (although not emphasized like that of Protestants), it should come as no surprise that there is an entire “Papal Prophecy” of last things which includes a collective of edicts by Popes through the centuries which includes the “Prophecy of the last Pope” which is not to be confused with the prophecy of the “list of popes and the name of the last pope” by Bishop Malachy.
This means the very fact that there is an official “Papal Prophecy” precludes at least the possibility that both Pope Benedict XVI and the next Pope could effectively be writing self fulfilling prophecy.
Most Catholic Theologians and clergy will profoundly state that (as a vital part of Papal doctrine) no Pope will openly take on the name of Peter as a Pope with respect and honor to Saint Peter the Apostle and considered the first Pope.
That said, even in light of Bishop Malachy’s prophecies and generally accepted within the church, it becomes certain then, that even if the next Pope is the last Pope, he will neither keep his name Peter (if that be his birth name) nor take on the name of Peter as his Papal name.
So the question is, how can Pope Peter of Rome or Petrus Romano ever come about (as prophesied by Bishop Malachy) and either Bishop Malachy or official Vatican Papal Prophecy be fulfilled?
Apparently there are several ways according to Catholic scholars that the prophecy could be fulfilled.
One way would simply be the Pope chooses not to stay with the Papal tradition of not using the name of Peter. He is therefore ordained as Pope under his birth name.
An alternative possibility would be that he has the name Peter somewhere within his birth name or a variation of Peter. Although he chooses another Papal name and is ordained accordingly, he either becomes so beloved by the people or begins performing a series of miracles that the people begin referring to him as Peter of Rome.
Another possibility is that a boat, a fish, the name Petra or a staff (like that said to have been had by the Apostle Peter in his later life) is included as part of the family crest of the Cardinal voted in as Pope resulting in him being known by the masses and the Vatican as “Peter of Rome”.
In short, there are many ways in which the next Pope could be known as “Peter of Rome” even if it seems a bit of a stretch.
Like all prophecy, Biblical, Papal or otherwise, it is almost always a matter of interpretation. In other words, there could be several views on the outcome of the selection of the next Pope.
Currently, there are among the Cardinals at least six that have the name Peter. They include: Peter Turkson from Ghana, Peter Erdo from Hungary, Tarcisio Pietro (Peter) Bertone, Secretary of State; Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, Bechara Boutros (Peter) al-Rahi (Rai) from Lebanon, Odio Pedro (Peter) Scherer from Brazil, and Jean-Pierre (Peter) Ricard from France Cardinal Bertone is the only 1 of these 6 candidates that are living in Rome.
Peter Turkson from Ghana, Tarcisio Pietro (Peter) Bertone, Secretary of State; Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church and Odio Pedro (Peter) Scherer from Brazil are the only cardinals with the name of Peter which are considered viable candidates as the next Pope.
Although Peter Turkson of Ghana is a big favorite among Cardinals, some believe the Vatican is not yet ready for a black Pope; especially one from the third world.
Catholics might want to remember it was only a year ago that some Southern Baptist felt the same way about the future of the possibility of a black President of the world's largest Protestant Christian Denomination.
Of course with an African American United States President and Southern Baptist President, it might be that God is moving the Catholic church towards an African born Pope as well.
Among Cardinals, many feel positive about Odio Pedro (Peter) Scherer from Brazil. Although he is widely liked, not everyone likes the idea of a Latin American Pope.
Considered one of the strongest contenders and liked very much with strong attachment to Pope Paul II is Cardinal Tarcisio Pietro (Peter) Bertone, Secretary of State; Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.
Obviously, the potential for the next Pope being known as Peter is very high.
The reality however, is the conclave might not select any of these men.
In that case, it is easy to see how the next Pope (regardless of who is chosen) could be totally in control of his own future and the Papal prophecy; if he so desires he could allow the prophecy to be self fulfilling or ignore the prophecy all together.
The fulfillment of this Papal prophecy is extremely important to the Catholic eschatological view because the last Pope helps to usher in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
With the conclave soon to be convened, we will either see Bishop Malachy’s vision (prophecy) fulfilled or viewed as false and unfounded.
If the prophecy is finally considered false and unfounded, then the church and the new Pope will have additional questions to answer to the masses for all of history in consideration of church and Papal prophecy.
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Please read my continuing reports and opinion on the Papal resignation, conclave and the next Pope.
© 2013 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III