The Christ in Prophecy Journal

The Last Pope? (Updated)


Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world on February 11 when he suddenly announced that he would retire on February 28 due to deteriorating health. There had not been a papal resignation since 1415 when Gregory XII stepped aside as part of a controversial arrangement to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants. Benedict became the first Pope in history to resign due to health reasons.

The Pope’s resignation created a sensation among Bible prophecy buffs because of a widespread belief that he would be the next-to-the-last Pope. This belief is grounded in what is called “The Prophecy of the Popes,” a document consisting of 112 short, cryptic phrases in Latin, which claims to predict all the Popes that would succeed Pope Celestine II who died in 1144.

A Strange Document of Unknown Origin

The document became public in 1595 when a Catholic priest by the name of Arnold de Wyon published a history of the Benedictine Order. He attributed the prophecies to an Irish priest, Saint Malachy, who served as an Archbishop in the 12th Century.

According to the traditional account, Malachy was summoned to Rome in 1139 by Pope Innocent II, and while he was there, he supposedly received a vision of future Popes. The manuscript was deposited in the Vatican Archives and forgotten about until its rediscovery in 1590, just in time for a papal conclave that was in session at the time.

The “prophecies” list 112 Popes that will serve from the time of Pope Urban VII who died in 1590, the first being Pope Gregory XIV whose papacy lasted for only one year. The last Pope in the list is referred to as “Peter the Roman.” And it is stated that he will reign among “many tribulations” leading up to the destruction of Rome.

Problems With the Document

There are a number of problems with these “prophecies,” as outlined below.

1) Unknown before their publication in 1595. Saint Bernard of Clairvoux, who was a contemporary of Saint Malachy, never mentions the prophecies in his biography of Malachy, nor are they mentioned in any record prior to 1595.

2) Obtuse wording. The “prophecies” are as obtuse as the so-called prophecies of Nostradamus. They simply list a short phrase for each Pope. Examples are: “pig in a sieve,” “from cattle country,” “star of the swans,” “snaky man,” and “woodpecker between food.”

For the first 74 Popes in the list leading up to 1590 when the document supposedly was found, the discoverer, Arnold de Wyon, tried to make a match between the identifying phrase and the person who actually became the Pope described by the phrase. Thus, the phrase, “from the guardian goose,” supposedly pointed to Pope Alexander III (1159 – 1181) whose family’s coat of arms featured a goose. Many of Wyon’s explanations are terribly stretched and amount to what might be called shoehorning, but the matches are more tenable than the “prophecies” concerning those who were to serve as Popes after the document was made public in 1595, clearly indicating that the document was actually written around the time it was “found.”

The “prophecies” dating after 1590 are very difficult to match up with the Pope who supposedly fulfilled the prophecy. For example, the prophecy “country animal” ended up pointing to Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758). Proponents of the prophecies have been able to link this “prophecy” to the Pope in only one absurd way — by arguing that he was a man of “plodding ox diligence.”

3) Questionable counting. From the time of the first Pope on the list to Benedict XVI, there were a total of 100 Popes. The only way to get the list up to 111 is to count the 11 men who served as Anti-Popes but who were never recognized by the Vatican as true Popes.

The Validity of the Document

Most experts who have studied the document carefully have concluded that it was manufactured by Arnold de Wyon as a propaganda piece to ensure that his candidate for the papacy in 1590 would be elected. Thus, the prophecy for Urban VII’s successor read, “from the old city.” The man Wyon favored was Cardinal Girolani Simoncelli who was from a city whose Latin name meant “old city.”

The ploy did not work. A man named Niccolo Sfondrati was elected, and he took the papal name of Gregory XIV. There was nothing in his background that linked him to the “prophecy” that stated he would be “from the old city.”

However, proponents of the “prophecies” argue that Gregory XIV’s father was a senator from Milan, and that the word, senator, is derived from the Latin word, senex, which means “old man.” Alternatively, they argue that Milan is the “old city” referred to. Again, an example of twisting a “prophecy” to mean virtually anything.

The New Pope

Although the newly elected Pope is from Argentina, he is not an Hispanic. He is of Roman descent, having been born of Italian immigrants to Argentina, but his birth name was not Peter, nor did he select that as his papal name. He does not fulfill the “prophecy” about him. Still, he could well prove to be the last Pope because the signs of the times clearly point to the imminent return of Jesus.

I think it is interesting to note that in the weeks following the election of Pope Francis, the greatest rumor-mongering machine in the world, the Internet, has been full of wild speculations to the effect that Pope Francis really is a fulfillment of Malachy’s “prophecies.”

For example, some are claiming that he really is the Peter spoken of in the Malachy document. The argument goes like this: He named himself after Saint Francis of Assisi, but Saint Francis’ real birth name was Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, and Pietro is the Italian version of Peter. This is the kind of nonsensical interpretations that have historically been applied to the Malachy “prophecies.” Thus, if a Malachy clue for a Pope is “Rose,” the true believers will search day and night to find some connection to a rose, even if it ends it to be the fact that the new Pope’s great grandmother loved roses!

Tom Horn, the author of the book, Petrus Romanus, is currently providing an explanation almost as far-fetched. He is arguing that the reference to the name Peter simply “implies this pope will reaffirm the authority of the Roman Pontiff over the Church and will emphasize the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Faith and the Roman Catholic Church above all other religions and denominations, and its authority over all Christians and all peoples of the world.” This is a classic spiritualization of a “prophecy,” making it mean whatever you want it to mean.

Another rumor that is prominent on the Internet is the assertion that the “prophecies” of Malachy included the statement that the last Pope would be a “black pope.” They then point to the fact that Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope and the leader of the Jesuits has always been referred to historically as “The Black Pope.” Sorry, there is no such statement in the “prophecies” of Malachy.

The only prophecies we need to pay attention to are those contained in God’s Word, for He is the only one who truly knows the future.

For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, “My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure”…
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it.
– Isaiah 46:9b-11

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ABOUT AUTHOR View all posts Author Website

Dr. David Reagan

Dr. David Reagan is the Founder and Evangelist Emeritus of Lamb & Lion Ministries. He is a life-long Bible student, teacher, and preacher and he led over 45 pilgrimages to Israel. Dr. Reagan was the host of the radio then television program Christ in Prophecy for nearly 40 years.

10 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • I'm going to boycott that well known search engine for snubbing Jesus on Easter!

    May not be a significant move on my part but I don't care. Maybe it would be if all Christians never used that site again.

  • Thank you for clarifying that THE PROPHECY OF THE POPES is nothing more than secular speculation. Too many Christians seem to be focusing on extra-biblical evidence for the soon return of Jesus Christ, rather than on the signs written in His own words, in His book – the Bible. He has already given us plenty of evidence that His second coming is near and, as born again believers, we should be looking up, awaiting the sound of the "last trump" and, in the meantime, working overtime to help bring others into His kingdom. What an amazing time to be alive on planet earth!

  • I'm just wondering….if the name Peter was used because in the future this Pope will deny that Jesus is the Son of God just as Peter denied he knew Jesus?

  • Thank you Dr. To date I have received more "enlightenment" from Christians and notable leaders than I care to. I've heard pastors take Scripture out of context and weave such a tale that the congregation was literally mesmerized saying, "Amen and praise the Lord." No scriptures to affirm their ramblings…just empty philosophy and self-glorifying words. This is troubling and grievous to God!

  • I can understand the skepticism but he failed to mention the predictions that did come to pass (very accurately). This is a classic fallacy of only addressing selective evidence favorable to one's opinion. It's not a very honest way of critique. But only time will tell, I have always been tentative about it but its not over until his papacy ends without the predicted events occurring.

  • While I respect your ministy, and give little credence to non-bible prophecies, Tom Horn's predictions concerning the Papacy were accurate to a fault! And in the FIRST comments from the balcony after election, Francis I, specifically pointed out the supremacy of the Catholic Church over all people of faith, another Horn bulls eye right out the gate! Given the history of the Jesuits, and the fact such a comment was made so quickly, the actions of the Papacy politically and otherwise, bears an increased level of scrutiny as far as i'm concerned! But Christ and his soon return is my focus, and Blessed hope!

  • Why can't some people just investigate and report the facts, without being accused of subscribing to, or advocating some false teaching. Here's what Tom Horn has to say about the whole deal- He says that questions are raised whether the prophecy of the popes was supernaturally inspired, either divinely or demonically [likely], or the vatican holds this prophecy to some esteem, and the college of cardinals have been using it like a roadmap to elect popes who somehow can be seen as fulfilling the prophecy.

  • The Vatican Insider had an article on September 25, 2011, that stated Benedict had indicated that he would resign in April, 2011 when he turned 85. Obviously, he waited until last February, but his resignation was inevitable.

    Tom Horn claimed to have received a "revelation from God" that Benedict would retire April 2012. Didn't happen. He tried to cover his tracks by making the ridiculous claim that Benedict had actually SECRETLY resigned that April. Please. If it dresses like a pope, does the duties of a pope and is called Pope, it's a pope.

    Many of the "prophetic" ministries today are nothing but a bunch of sensationalist ear ticklers who are followed by gullible believers ripe for deception. I thank God for Dr. Reagan's integrity and that of the staff of Lamb and Lion to stay true to the Word.


  • The pope has named himself after St Francis. Well this St had a different name given to him at birth – it was Peter! He was also born in Italy and his given family name can be translated as from Rome.

  • i cannot understand why the fact that malachy predict the last pope would be of rome and pope francis is of rome would be ignored. that is something he could not change, but he could intentionally have avoid using the name peter which would have created controversy. i believe that he fits both requirements that he is from rome and based on francis of assisi's name pietro.


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