British bookmakers Paddy Power and Ladbrokes have already drawn up a list of contenders to replace Pope Benedict XVI, and topping both lists is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.
For more than 800 hundreds years scholars have pointed to the dark augury having to do with “the last Pope”.
The prophecy, taken from St. Malachy’s “Prophecy of the Popes”, is among a list of verses predicting each of the Roman Catholic popes from Pope Celestine II to the final pope, “Peter the Roman”, whose reign would end in the destruction of Rome.
First published in 1595, the prophecies were attributed to St. Malachy by a Benedictine historian named Arnold de Wyon, who recorded them in his book, Lignum Vitae.
Tradition holds that Malachy had been called to Rome by Pope Innocent II, and while there, he experienced the vision of the future popes, including the last one, which he wrote down in a series of cryptic phrases.
According to the prophecy, the next pope (following Benedict XVI) is to be the final pontiff, Petrus Romanus or Peter the Roman.
The idea by some Catholics that the next pope on St. Malachy’s list heralds the beginning of “great apostasy” followed by “great tribulation” sets the stage for the imminent unfolding of apocalyptic events, something many non-Catholics would agree with.
This would give rise to a false prophet, who according to the book of Revelation leads the world’s religious communities into embracing a political leader known as Antichrist.