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The Last Pope

From Koinonia House

Pope Benedict XVI (born Joseph Ratzinger) announced Monday that he will officially resign on February 28 of this year. When he does so, he will be the first pope to voluntarily leave the post since Pope Gregory XII in 1415. Speculations about possible cover-ups have already started, but Ratzinger has been in poor health for some time, and rumors that he could resign have circulated for more than a year. The Pope explained himself, saying, "In order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me." 

Just in time for the Lenten Season, the main topic of conversation will dwell on the next pope, due to be elected by Easter on March 31st. Papal candidates are called "Papabili", a Latin term which literally means, "popeable" or "one who might become pope." According to modern church law, a pope is selected only from the College of Cardinals who meet in conclave to select the successor. A Papabile must be a cardinal, so the list of Papabili is fairly short, usually four of five men. 

Throughout modern Catholic Church history, the man who emerges from the conclave to lead the estimated 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide has sometimes been a surprise. Those that people may think will be pope many times are not elected. There is a saying in the Vatican, "He, who enters the conclave as Pope, leaves it as a cardinal." The present pope was thought to be a Papabile, but considered a long-shot since he was 78 years old when elected pope - the oldest man to be elected pope in since Pope Clement XII (1730-40). John XXIII, John Paul I, and John Paul II were all elected pope, but not considered papabili. 

While there has been a great amount of speculation in modern times about who would be the next pope, many Catholics are watching closely the next conclave, for they believe that whoever succeeds Pope Benedict XIV will be "The Last Pope". 

The Prophecy of St. Malachy:
St. Malachy (Maelmhaedhoc O Morgair) lived in 12th Century Ireland and was the Archbishop of Armagh, now a town of 14,000 in Northern Ireland. Attracted to the monastic life, Malachy established the first Cistercian abbey in Ireland in 1142. He also reformed the Irish Church and aligned it more closely with Rome.