Question: "What is the prophecy of St. Malachy?"
Answer: St. Malachy, whose Gaelic name was Máel Máedóc, was born in Ireland in AD 1094. He became a Catholic priest and later the Archbishop of Armagh. Several miracles have been attributed to him, according to evidence investigated by the Roman Catholic Church. He was the first Irishman to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
Malachy was an influential reformer within Irish Catholicism, bringing its liturgical practices into closer agreement with those of Rome. For his efforts, he was appointed legate for Ireland, but during his second trip to Rome, in 1148, he became ill and died on November 2.
Malachy is known today for a set of prophecies, purportedly written by him in 1139, concerning the future line of Popes. His list started with his contemporary, Pope Celestine III and continued through the next 112 Popes. The last Pope would be called Petrus Romanus (“Peter the Roman”), whose reign would end with Judgment Day. Malachy’s vision of the future included a brief, cryptic description of each Pope.
According to Catholic tradition, Malachy’s prophecy remained hidden until AD 1590, when it was first published. It has been a source of conjecture and controversy ever since. The prophecy has recently come into focus again because of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. According to Malachy’s reckoning, Pope Francis I will be the last.
Here are the final five Popes, according to Malachy:
Flos Florum (“Flower of Flowers”) – Pope Paul VI
De medietate Lunae (“Of the Half Moon”) – Pope Juan Pablo I
De Labore Solis (“From the Toil of the Sun”) – Pope John Paul II
Gloria Olivae (“The Glory of the Olive”) – Pope Benedict XVI
Petrus Romanus (“Peter the Roman”) – Pope Francis I
Some people have found “evidence” that Malachy’s prophecy is true. For example, Paul VI’s coat of arms contained fleur-de-lys, thereby associating him with flowers. Other connections between the prophecy and the Popes are more strained and hardly plausible.
The prophecy of Malachy concerning the final Pope is as follows: “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.” According to Malachy, the final Pope will take the title “Pope Peter the Roman” or a derivative thereof. According to Catholic teaching, the apostle Peter was the first Pope, and, according to Malachy, another Peter will be the final one.
The mention of “persecution” and the destruction of Rome in Malachy’s prophecy have led some to believe that the final Pope will be the Antichrist or the False Prophet of Revelation 19:20. There are others who find a prediction of a “black Pope” in Malachy’s writings.
Because Malachy was immersed in the teachings and dogmas of the Catholic Church, his prophetic utterances and dreams are questionable at best. His prophecy is extra-biblical; for that matter, the whole concept of a “Pope” is extra-biblical. Rather than interpret the end times according to the dreams of a Catholic mystic, we should trust what God’s Word says in the books of Daniel, Revelation, and Zechariah.
The Bible warns about listening to false prophets who speak as though their oracles were given to them by God. Jeremiah 23:32 says, “‘Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,’ declares the Lord. ‘They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least.’”