By Phil Stewart
Thu Apr 28, 9:17 AM ET
ROME (Reuters) - Pope Benedict's ascent to the papacy took
a conclave of 115 cardinals, four rounds of voting and followed
a lifetime of service to the
But ask Internet doomsayers eyeing a 12th century Catholic
prophecy and they'll tell you it was all stitched up more than
eight centuries ago and that judgment day is nigh.
The prophecy -- widely dismissed by scholars as a hoax --
is attributed to St. Malachy, an Irish archbishop recognized by
members of the Church for his ability to read the future.
Benedict, believers say, fits the description of the
second-to-last pope listed under the prophecy before the Last
Judgement, when the bible says God separates the wicked from
the righteous at the end of time.
"The Old Testament states: 'believe his prophets and you
will prosper' -- so believe it. We are close to the return of
the Judge of the nations. Christ is coming," wrote one Internet
post by the Rev. Pat Reynolds.
"Thank God for the witness of St. Malachy."
St. Malachy was said to have had a vision during a trip to
Rome around 1139 of the remaining 112 Popes. The new pope would
be number 111 on that list, and is described in a text
attributed to St. Malachy as the "Glory of the Olive."
To connect Benedict, a pale, bookish German, to anything
olive takes some imagination. But Malachy-watchers point to the
choice of the name Benedict -- an allusion to the Order of
Saint Benedict, a branch of which is known as the Olivetans.
"When (he) chose the name Benedict XVI, this was seen as
fulfilling the prophecy for this pope," wrote one entry on
Benedict said that he chose the name partly in honor of
Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), calling him a "courageous prophet
of peace." On Wednesday, Benedict dedicated his papacy to "the
service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples."
"Perhaps Benedict XVI will be a peacemaker in the Church or
in the world, and thus carry the olive branch," speculated
Another site, www.bibleprobe.com, went even further,
showing a picture of Benedict holding olive branches in March
during Palm Sunday celebrations.
"Is this the Pope of Peace (olive)?" it asked in the
Critics widely dismiss the Malachy prophecy as a forgery
and possible propaganda meant to influence a 16th century
conclave. Doses of skepticism even appear on the most energetic
Malachy web pages.
But believers point out similarities between the prophecy's
descriptions and past pontificates.
Pope John Paul
110, was described in the prophecy as "de labore solis" -- or
"of the labor of the sun."
He was born on May 18, 1920, the same day as a solar
eclipse. The pontiff was buried on April 8, 2005 -- the same
day as a partial eclipse, visible in the Americas.
More pressing for doomsayers are the prophecy's references
to the last Pope on the list, Peter the Roman, who will lead
the Church before "the formidable judge will judge his people."
Since Benedict is already 78 years old, they say Peter the
Roman must be coming soon, and with him, the end of the world.
"His reign will only last a few years at most. This signals
that we are living in what may be the end of days as we know
it," said one Web Site entry by someone calling himself