What Future for the Popes?; How Many Will Follow in Shoes of Ailing John Paul Ii? Only Two Then It's the End Says a Saint
Byline: ANDREW BUSHE
AGE-OLD prophecies by a saint on the number of Popes have sparked renewed interest following the confirmation of the ailing health of John Paul II.
The Pontiff is expected to announce the appointment of around 25 new Cardinals next month - including another red hat for Ireland - as the current number of Cardinals is less than 100.
For a conclave to choose a new Pope, 120 Cardinals will be required to make the choice.
The Vatican last week announced that Polish-born Pope John Paul II has Parkinsons Disease.
It has prompted calls for the Pontiff to retire for the sake of his health.
But the Pope has vowed to continue, refusing to abdicate saying he will carry on "until God's work is done''.
Now the 900-year-old prophecies of St Malachy have renewed fresh speculation that John Paul II will be the third last Pope.
According to Armagh-born St Malachy, there would be only 112 Popes, from Pope Celestine II in 1143 until the end of the world.
Pope John Paul II is the 110th and his successor will be the second last, to be succeeded by "Peter of Rome", who would be the end of the line.
The prophecies said there would then be the final prosecution of the Holy Roman Church.
It adds: "Peter will feed his flock among many tribulations, after which the seven hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End".
Though not as widely known as apocalyptic seers like Nostradamus, the predictions of Malachy are receiving wider attention because his prophecy of Armageddon draws nearer.
A number of Internet websites have recently attempted to untangle the codes.
The predictions did not emerge until 1597 with claims they were suppressed, hidden or forgotten in papal archives.
However, doubts remain about whether the Saint was the true author at all or if they were forgeries.
They are claimed to result from a vision on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1139.
Each Pope is assigned a short description in Latin. The mystic names have been linked to things like family names, birthplaces, coats of arms or the jobs popes held before they were chosen. Followers of the prophecies claim they have been uncannily accurate.
Pastor et nauta (shepherd and navigator) was given for John XXIII. He had been patriarch of Venice, a city of sailors, and led his flock through the ecumenical council. …