A new documentary reveals that a centuries-old claim by protestants that the pope is the antichrist has actually been taught by Catholic scholars from centuries past and may have been prophesied by a 14th century Catholic archbishop.
The claim is one of many in the new WND film, “The Last Pope,” which is based on the book, “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope is Here,” by Tom Horn and Cris Putnam.
“This is the first generation of Protestants as well as a great number of Catholics who did not believe that the antichrist would find his seat at the Vatican in Rome,” Horn said. “Certainly the reformers believed that up until 50 or 60 years that was a common eschatology. What many Catholics don’t know is that was also a common belief among their greatest scholars.”
According to the Prophecy of the Popes, a time of vast biblical significance is now at hand. “The Last Pope?” includes medieval historians, Vatican-affiliated experts and authors. From Ireland to Italy, “The Last Pope?” tells a riveting story of eschatological intrigue.
Discussions about the end times are a constant theme among Christians in all denominations, as well as speculation regarding the identity of the antichrist. Some of the claims have ranged from sincere contenders to the absurd.
During World War II some speculated that Adolf Hitler was the antichrist because of his “Final Solution” policy to exterminate the Jewish people.
However, other names bandied about included Henry Kissinger and even Ronald Reagan. The basis for Reagan being the antichrist was his full name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, in which each part had six letters, or 666.
“The Last Pope” delves deeply into the prophesies of St. Malachy, an Irish saint and archbishop of Armagh who lived from 1094 to 1148. Malachy’s “Prophesies of the Popes” is said to be based on a prophetic vision of the 112 popes following Pope Celestine II, who died in 1144.
Malachy’s prophecies, first published in 1595, culminate with the “final pope,” “Petrus Romanus,” or “Peter the Roman,” whose reign ends with the destruction of Rome and the judgment of Christ.
The film examines Malachy’s prophesies, which are a series of statements that purportedly provide clues as the identity of each of the 112 popes, in a critical light. Some of the statements refer to a particular town, while others make references to the coat of arms representing each pontiff.
Skeptics have said the book is nothing more than a collection of phrases similar to the writings of Nostradamus. Putman says people have a right to be skeptical, and if Malachy’s revelations are correct, they should stand up to scrutiny using the scientific method. He goes on to say that they provide a fascinating insight into the history of the popes.
“The way the scientific method works is you develop a hypothesis and you don’t try to prove a hypothesis, you try to disprove it,” Putnam said. “It’s easy to find some kind of confirming evidence if you go fishing around. In a lot of these prophecies, I think that’s a valid criticism.”
However, he says one pope in particular stands out in the prophesy surrounding his reign. For Pope Benedict XV, who was pontiff from 1914 to 1922, Malachy’s prophesy says “Religio Depopulata” or “religion depopulated.”
“Religion depopulated, now that is a bold prediction. With all things being equal, you wouldn’t expect religion to be depopulated,” Putnam said. “It might go up and down a little bit, the church might grow it might fall off a bit, but that is a risky position. It is easily falsifiable. If nothing happened during his reign, I would think that this prophecy would’ve been falsified, but what happens during Benedict XV’s reign?
“This was the onset of World War I, which was devastating. In the Soviet Union and Russia, we see the Bolshevik revolution. This is the beginning of militant atheism and the time that 200 million people left the church. Probably more than in any time in history, religion was depopulated, exactly when this prophecy predicted it would hundreds of years before.”
While the Catholic Church has had more than 400 years to dispute the procedures, a least one pope seemed to take stock in the prophesy. Pastor Angelicus, or the “Angel Pope,” was given to describe Pius XII, who was a fierce anti-communist.
Pius XII had a documentary made about himself, which he titled “The Angel Pope.”
“He was intimately involved in this project, and it even said how it exemplifies a day in the life of St. Malachy’s angelic shepherd in the heading,” Putnam said. “The Catholic Church has had 400 years to make a statement disputing [Malachy's predictions], but here we have one of their infallible popes who obviously claimed it for himself. That begs an explanation from any scholar who wants to dismiss it.”
Malachy’s prophesies appear to even have an eerie prediction regarding John Paul I, who was only pope for just more than a month. Describing John Paul I, Malachy says he is “of the half moon.” Interestingly, John Paul I ascended to the papacy on the day of the half moon.
“What makes it even more chilling is he only lived for one lunar cycle; he died after 33 days,” Putnam said.
Following the death of John Paul I, evidence suggested that the pontiff may have been poisoned. The details are covered in the book “Murder in the Vatican” by Avro Manhattan. Regardless of the cause of his demise, a statement made by John Paul I seems to indicate he had some knowledge of his impending death.
Cardinal Luciani, patriarch of Venice, was asked in Latin, “Do you accept your election as Supreme Pontiff, which has been canonically carried out?” His reply was unexpected as he said, “May God forgive you for what you have done in my regard.” In just more than a month, he was dead, supposedly dying in his sleep.
While Malachy’s prophesies have been around for centuries, Pope Francis is the final pope mentioned by the archbishop. If his prophesies are correct, Francis could be the last pope before the return of Jesus Christ.
The idea that a pope could be either the antichrist or false prophet mentioned in Revelation has long been taught by Protestants. Many of the reformers and leaders of the Great Awakening, such as John Calvin, Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards, whose famous sermon, “Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God,” which is still occasionally mentioned in public school textbooks, all taught that the pope was the antichrist.
However, while many have criticized this teaching as simply anti-Catholic sentiments, Horn says there are respected theologians in the Catholic Church, such as Cardinal Henry Manning, Father Malachi Martin, Bishop Salvator Zola and Cardinal Frederick William Helle, who have all taught that in the last days Rome would become the seat of power for the antichrist.
“These are from within Catholicism, highly educated men including Jesuits who believe that the time would come when the final pope would be the false prophet of biblical fame and would help give rise to the antichrist,” Horn said.
Dr. George Grant, a historian and former pastor who has written more than 60 books, says regardless of whether there is any validity to the prophesies, sooner or later Pope Francis and the Vatican will have to deal with issue.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s true; it matters whether people think it’s true and that they act in light of it,” Grant said. “Francis and the Vatican will have to deal with this in some way, and in dealing with it they are in a sense giving credence to it. Do I think we need to pay attention to it? Absolutely.”