Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday morning that he would be stepping down as the head of the Catholic Church, making him the first Pope to step down rather than die in the position in more than 600 years. A new pope will be selected by the end of March. There will undoubtedly be much speculation about who will take over the reigns of the Catholic Church, but one thing that we can look to for some guidance about who might be the the next pope are the infamous papal prophecies of St. Malachy. St. Malachy, the first Irish saint, had a vision of the next 112 popes. We’ve had 111 since, and are on the verge of seeing No. 112, which Malachy says will be the final pope before the end of the world as we know it.
In 1139, Malachy was Archibishop and traveled to Rome from ireland to give an account of his affairs. While in Rome, Malachy received a vision about the future which included the name of every pope, 112 in total, from his time until the end of time. We currently are at the end of the second to last prophecy, with Benedict XVI at the helm.
St. Malachy had written about the 112th pope:
"In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End."
St. Malachy prophesized that the final pope would be "Peter the Roman", which is interesting because no pope to date has chosen the name of Peter out of respect for Peter the Apostle. There has also been speculation that the final pope would be black. Even more curiously, there is a black cardinal in Ghana, Peter Turkson, who is believed to be a frontrunner and whose name has come up in previous discussions of papal appointment.
Cardinal Turkson has said in the past that "if God would wish to see a black man also as pope, thanks be to God." Catholic Church chronicler Rocco Palmo has called Turkson the lone Scripture scholar in the Pope’s "Senate", and believes that his status as a potential "papabile" has been elevated due to his 2009 appointment as spokesman for the Second Synod for Africa.
Outside of the Church, there are also many who believe that Turkson is the favorite to take over as pontiff. Even the London bookmakers believe he’s the top choice. Odds comparison site Oddschecker.com lists Turkson at best price odds of 4/1, and as short as 2/1 with some firms. Francis Arinze, the Nigerian Cardinal, is also a huge favorite with the bookies.
There are some who insist that Malachy did not say that the last pope he mentioned would be the 112th pope, insisting that he was merely the last, and theorizing that there could be more popes to come between Benedict and "Peter the Roman". However, this is not a belief that everyone subscribes to and many believe that "Peter the Roman" will be both the 112th and last pope of the Catholic Church.
Malachy’s prophecies are taken very seriously as they’ve been uncannily accurate to date. Will the Catholic Church get its first black pope? Will "Peter the Roman" lead us into the End Times? These questions are set to be answered by Easter, which comes this year at the end of March when the papal conclave announces their decision.
Pope Benedict XVI announced his decision to step down due to health concerns just days ahead of the start of the Lenten season. He is due to step down officially on February 28. The announcement surprised even his inner circle, who were said to be unaware that he was planning to step down.
The College of Cardinals is charged with electing the new pope, who according to Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution, must be cardinals under the age of 80. Pope Benedict XVI established current procedures, which were amended by a motu proprio dated June 11, 2007. A two-third majority vote is required to elect the new pope.