As Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation, many look to the prophetic writings of a twelfth century Irish saint who was said to have predicted the exact number of popes before the end of the world.
Saint Malachy of Armagh, a Roman Catholic bishop who died in 1148, was said to have had a vision while on a pilgrimage to Rome wherein he learned the exact number of all the popes who would rule from his time to the Apocalypse.
Rather than give their names, Malachy gave each of these future pontiffs Latin mottos, which believers in the Medieval saint's prophecies claim bear a strong resemblance to the figures they described.
For example, Pope John Paul II was number 110 on the list and was dubbed by Malachy as "De Labore Solis", which literally means "From the Toil of the Sun" but is also rendered "Of the Solar Eclipse." John Paul II was born on a date that had a solar eclipse.
According to Irishcentral.com, there are connections made between the line of popes since the 12th century and the Malachy list.
"Many of the prophecies are spot on. For example, the one about Urban VIII is Lilium et Rosa (the lily and the rose); he was a native of Florence and on the arms of Florence figured a fleur-de-lis," wrote Irish Central staff writers.
"Peregrinus apostolicus (pilgrim pope), which designates Pius VI, appears to be verified by his many journeys to new lands."
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With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, there remains only one Latin motto left on the list: Petrus Romanus, or "Peter the Roman."
According to the writings of Malachy, this will be the final Pontiff: "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."
As with other end times theories, this one has its own factual disputes. For example, the original list of popes predicted by Malachy was said to include only 110 numbered names plus "Petrus Romanus."
However number 111, identified as Gloria Olivae ("The Glory of the Olive") was reportedly added by the Order of Saint Benedict after Malachy's death. Pope Benedict XVI is identified as being number 111.
Individuals have also argued that since "Petrus Romanus" was not given a number like the other popes on the list, there might be pontiffs who show up between Pope Benedict XVI and the unknown Peter the Roman.
In a 1950s booklet titled "Prophecy for Today," Catholic author Edward Connor noted that there were roughly 400 years between when the prophecies were said to have been written down and when they were first published in 1590.
"Of the 112 Popes described in the prophecy 74 had already reigned when the list was discovered and opponents of the prophecy claim that the descriptions of these are far more exact then those of subsequent Pontiffs," wrote Connor.
"Was not the list the work of a forger who simply used hindsight to describe the Popes of the preceding four hundred fifty years, and clever ambiguity for the Popes of the future?"
As the College of Cardinals will soon meet to decide who will be the next Bishop of Rome, it is unknown how much influence the Malachy list will have on their decision-making.