The M+G+R Foundation

The Prophecy of the Popes

Attributed to St. Malachy


The purpose of this brief document is to attempt to bring to an end the seemingly unending speculation about the alleged prophecies of St. Malachy regarding the Bishops of Rome. This unproductive intellectual "sport" has become as widespread as the issuance of new interpretations of Nostradamus' writings.


We could not think of a better individual to get to the root of the history behind St. Malachy's alleged prophecies (and their evolution through time) than Mr. Lee Penn. His ability to ferret the hidden truths out of books and Internet sites, and his ability to separate fact from legend, makes his assistance invaluable.

In the following paragraphs you will read the condensed, but comprehensive and amply annotated, result of his research into St. Malachy's alleged prophecies. Mr. Penn's text will be followed by an "IN CONCLUSION" section, in which miguel de Portugal will make a final evaluation of these so-called prophecies.

The Prophecy of the Popes Attributed to St. Malachy

by Lee Penn

St. Malachy (1094-1148) was the Archbishop of Armagh and the Papal legate to Ireland (1). He was a close friend of Bernard of Clairvaux (who was – in addition – a proponent of the Crusades and of the Knights Templar (2) ). Malachy fell ill while traveling to Rome in 1148, and died that year in Bernard's arms, at the abbey of Clairvaux.

St. Malachy had gone to Rome in 1139 to report to Pope Innocent II on the condition of his diocese (3). According to the account of the Abbé Cucherat, Malachy then received a vision of the future: a listing of the future Popes, starting with Celestine II (the successor of Innocent II), and continuing until the Day of Judgment. Malachy supposedly gave this list to Innocent II, and it was put away into the Vatican's archives. The prophecy was supposedly rediscovered in 1590, and was first published in 1595 – although the original manuscript from Malachy no longer exists.

St. Malachy's prophecy is a list of 112 future Popes (or claimants to the Papacy), with a Latin phrase describing each of them (4). That phrase may pertain to their ancestry, their country of origin, their coat of arms, their lives and work before or during their reign, or the circumstances of their death. This list accounts for all the popes officially recognized by the Vatican since 1143, as well as all but two of those officially listed as antipopes (5). (The two missing antipopes are Innocent III, who "reigned" from late September 1179 to January 1180 (6), and Benedict XIV, who was "elected" in November 1425; almost nothing is known about his reign or his death (7) ).

In the Malachy prophecy, [at the time these lines are being written, the year 2011] the current occupant of the Holy See corresponds to the next-to-last person listed – "Gloria olivae," or "the glory of the olive."

The next person listed is the final pope, "Peter the Roman." In English, this is the description given to him: "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." (8)

There are claims made that the "Peter the Roman" entry, with its reference to the Last Judgment, did not appear in the prophecy text until it was added sometime after 1820 (9). However, the first publication of this prophecy in 1595 does contain the full, apocalyptic "Peter the Roman" reference (10).

Others claim that there may be any number of popes between "Gloria olivae" and "Petrus Romanus." However, taken as a whole, the list of Popes attributed to Malachy is a sequential list (11), with no omissions so far (other than the two obscure medieval anti-popes listed above, who reigned as "Innocent III" and "Benedict XIV").

Since the first appearance of the prophecies, there has been doubt about their authenticity.

Arguments against the prophecy are (12):

* These prophecies were not mentioned in any writings about the Papacy before 1595.

* St. Bernard, a close friend of St. Malachy, did not mention these prophecies in his "Life of St. Malachy."

Nevertheless, there is evidence in favor of the prophecies (13). It is a telling fact that the descriptions of the most recent popes in the Malachy prophecy are accurate – or at the least, relevant to the person elected (14). (All the descriptions, pre-1595 and post-1595, are arcane and rather obscure.)

* John XXIII ("Pastor et nauta" – shepherd and sailor). He was from Venice, a maritime city, and had worked as a shepherd in his youth. (15)

* Paul VI ("Flos florum" – flower of flowers). His coat of arms bore three white lilies.

* John Paul I ("De medietate lunae" – from the half of the moon). His one-month reign began on August 26, 1978, when the moon was approximately half-full.

* John Paul II ("De labore solaris" – from the labor of the sun). Solar eclipses occurred on the day of his birth (May 18, 1920 and on the day of his funeral (April 8, 2005). (16)

* Benedict XVI ("Gloria olivae" – the glory of the olive). According to one commentator, "The Benedictine order traditionally said this Pope would come from their order, since a branch of the Benedictine order is called the Olivetans. St Benedict is said to have prophesied that before the end of the world, a member of his order would be Pope and would triumphantly lead the Church in its fight against evil." (17) Also, the current [year 2011] occupant of the See of Rome has stated that he chose his name to honor Benedict XV, who sought peace during World War I.

If the prophecy of Malachy is true and inspired, we are very close to the end of the age.

IN CONCLUSION [by The M+G+R Foundation]

If we were to summarize miguel de Portugal's opinion and recommendation regarding this subject matter, it would be as follows: Disregard it! These alleged prophecies serve no purpose whatsoever other, than distract the Faithful from what they should be doing now: Praying. (18)

For those who seek more specific reasons for our evaluation:

(a) Any of those Latin phrases describing each individual Pope (or antipope) can be applied to just about any human being, ordained or not, if one looks long enough into the history of the individual in question.

(b) Right now, we are reviewing a three hundred page book (19) specializing in historical coincidences in all aspects of human endeavor. By comparison, the most famous of St. Malachy's phrase describing a Pope seem hardly worth mentioning, much less be considered as a prophecy.

(c) Some interpreters of this Malachy's alleged prophecy claim that "there may be any number of popes between 'Gloria olivae' and 'Petrus Romanus.'" Such a gap in the list of future popes would nullify any prophetic value associated with that list.

(d) The apparently and unique "perfect fit" for John Paul II is striking, but is a minor coincidence compared with others that we know about. (For example, many of the significant events of World War I and World War II occurred on dates with particular religious significance.) We can say this: the solar eclipses meant that the lights attributed to the Papacy for the last 1,600 years were finally extinguished in 1996, during the term of John Paul II.

(e) The alleged prophecy of St. Malachy contains a significant error: it implies that the end of the world and the Final Judgment are imminent. The prophecy states that there will be one more claimant to the Chair of Peter after Benedict XVI, "Peter the Roman" – and then, "the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End." However, as we have said over the years, the End of These Times is imminent; the End of the World and the Final Judgment are centuries in the future. Only at the End of the World will it be that "...the dreadful Judge will judge the people."

The only claim to fame that those alleged prophecies have is that, indeed, there will be 112 historical Popes - give or take one or two - from 1143 AD until the End of These Times (which will include the end of the Papacy as it has been known until now).

(1) Information in this paragraph is from: Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), "St. Malachy,", viewed 10/26/11; Wikipedia, "Saint Malachy,", viewed 10/26/11.
(2) The M+G+R Foundation, "Bernard of Clairvaux's Warring Theology,", viewed 11/2/11.
(3) Wikipedia, "Prophecy of the Popes,", viewed 10/26/11.
(4) Reference books with the details of these prophecies include: Martin Lings, The Eleventh Hour: The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy, Archetype, 2002, pp. 118-125. Lings was a Sufi Muslim. A standard Catholic source is Peter Bander, The Prophecies of St. Malachy & St. Columbkille, Colin Smythe Ltd., 2005.
(5) A chronological list of popes and antipopes is in Eamon Duffy, Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes, Yale University Press, 2007, appendix A, pp. 397-405.
(6) J. N. D. Kelly and Michael Walsh, Oxford Dictionary of the Popes, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 180.
(7) J. N. D. Kelly and Michael Walsh, Oxford Dictionary of the Popes, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 241.
(8) Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), "Prophecies of St. Malachy,", viewed 10/26/11.
(9) Wikipedia, "Prophecy of the Popes,", viewed 10/26/11.
(10) Lignum Vitae, on-line version from Google Books, at, viewed 10/26/11.
(11) Wikipedia, "Prophecy of the Popes,", viewed 10/26/11.
(12) Information in this section is from: Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), "Prophecies of St. Malachy,", viewed 10/26/11; Wikipedia, "Prophecy of the Popes,", viewed 10/26/11.
(13) Information in this section is from: Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), "Prophecies of St. Malachy,", viewed 10/26/11; Wikipedia, "Prophecy of the Popes,", viewed 10/26/11.
(14) For the description attached to each Pope: Wikipedia, "Prophecy of the Popes,", viewed 10/26/11;, "Prophecy of St. Malachy,", viewed 11/1/11.
(15) Martin Lings, The Eleventh Hour: The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy, Archetype, 2002, p. 124.
(16) Wikipedia, "Cultural References to Pope John Paul II,", viewed 10/26/11. This page has a footnote with links to NASA data on the eclipses of the sun that occurred on these dates (The solar eclipse on May 18, 1920 5:22-5:33 and on April 8, 2005).
(17), "Prophecy of St. Malachy,", viewed 11/1/11.
(18) What we should be doing right now - Part I and Part II
(19) Casualidades, Coincidencias y Serendipias de la Historia by Gregorio Doval, 2011, Ediciones Nowtilus, S.L., Madrid, SPAIN

En Español:  La Profecía de los Papas atribuida a San Malaquias

Published on November 6, 2011

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