Pope Francis = Peter The Roman = Antichrist ?

WARNING: The above video is sensationalist hype!!!
It is an advertisement for a non-catholic book written about the alleged Catholic prophecy of Saint Malachy. A few Evangelical Protestants have put their own apocalyptic spin on this prophecy that equates the Pope with the Antichrist.  The authors of the book advertised here are sensational conspiracy theorists.  They have since released another book, wherein they claim the Vatican is preparing for the arrival of extraterrestrial aliens.

As I'm writing this it is May 20th, 2013, and it has been over three months since I published the article: The Pope, The Antichrist and Peter the Roman.  At that time, Pope Benedict XVI had just announced his retirement and the identity of the next pope was still unknown.  Also, at that time, various Evangelical Fundamentalists were going insane with speculation about an alleged prophecy from a medieval Catholic bishop, which they had reinterpreted to mean the election of the Biblical Antichrist as the "final pope" was upon us.  In my article, I warned my readers about the questionable legitimacy of the prophecy itself, and then of course the ridiculous interpretation some Evangelicals were imposing upon it that was completely out of context.

[CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)] via Wikimedia Commons
Pope Francis
So now we know who the next pope is, and we've had a little time to get acquainted with him.  He is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, native of Argentina, and former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  He is known as a humble reformer, who lives in a small apartment, rides the bus, and is frequently seen in the slums of the city ministering to the poor.  Though he is officially of the Jesuit order, he has chosen the pontifical name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan order.  Is this Pope Francis the alleged prophesied "Peter the Roman?"  Worse yet, is this apartment dwelling, bus riding, minister to the poor the dreaded Antichrist of Biblical prophecy?

As I pointed out in my previous article on this topic, there is no way we can know if the alleged prophecy of Saint Malachy is true.  Circumstances seem to point toward a forgery.  However, even if it is true, the man we have seen so far is just as much a match as anyone can expect, namely because the alleged prophecy of Saint Malachy specifically says this "Peter the Roman" will NOT be the Antichrist, but rather a good Christian leader...
"In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will nourish the sheep in many tribulations; when they are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The end."  -- source
Now let's look at this prophecy carefully....
  1. It specifically says this "Peter the Roman" will nourish his sheep during many tribulations.  That means he's a good guy.  He's helping the "sheep" (Christians).
  2. After the tribulations are finished, the city on seven hills will be destroyed.  Notice it doesn't say when the reign of "Peter the Roman" is finished.  It says when the tribulations are finished.  This could mean anything, because Christ specifically said the Church will suffer tribulations until the end of time.  The city on seven hills can only mean Rome or Jerusalem.  Rome has already been destroyed many times in history and so has Jerusalem.
  3. The dreadful judge will judge his people.  This "dreadful judge" could mean anyone.  It could mean Jesus Christ.  Or it could mean a revived European monarchy.  Who knows?
As I said above, there is a fairly high degree of probability that the alleged prophecy is a fake, and we definitely should not rely on it based on that one reason alone.  For now the whole thing is a curiosity and nothing more than that. There are many other prophecies from saints and mystics that are far more reliable.  If you want to study them, a good place to start is the prophecies (secrets) of Fatima, and then branch out from there, using only Church-approved sources.  As for this alleged "Peter the Roman" prophecy, supposedly from Saint Malachy, it is helpful to remember it has three strikes against it.  Strike 1: it has never been approved by any jurisdiction within the Catholic Church.  Strike 2: it has a questionable history, in that it only surfaced some five-hundred years after it was allegedly written.  Strike 3: on the surface, it doesn't appear to agree with other prophecies uttered by canonised saints and approved mystics.  All of this was documented at length before the election of Pope Francis in my previous article: The Pope, The Antichrist and Peter the Roman.  If the prophecy turns out to be true, it will be a surprise.  However, if it does turn out to be true, Pope Frances will be one of the greatest popes in history, and will be regarded as a hero by both Catholics and Protestants alike, for he will "nourish the sheep in many tribulations."

However, this interpretation won't sit well for many Evangelicals who are looking for the Antichrist, namely because this alleged prophecy has been plucked out of Catholicism by some non-Catholics hell bent on looking for a villain.  Since the days of Martin Luther, Protestants have searched desperately for an Antichrist in the pope of Rome.  They needed the papacy to be linked to the Antichrist in some way, so as to justify their schism with Rome, as well as the theft and violence through which it was accomplished. These things can be morally justified if the man who occupies the Chair of Peter is the Son of Perdition.  However, if he is not, then what does that say of the Protestant Reformation?

For those looking for an Antichrist, they will not find one in Pope Francis, or any pope for that matter.  It is clear from the writings of the early Christians that the last and final Antichrist will arise in Jerusalem not Rome, and that he will be Jewish not Catholic.  Think about this for a moment.  The term Antichrist literally means "false messiah."  He is a counterfeit to Jesus of Nazareth, and his purpose is to lead the world's Jews, and the world itself, into believing he is the true messiah promised by the Old Testament, making Jesus of Nazareth a fraud of course.  Now how can this happen with a Catholic pope who's very office is founded on the proclamation that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah?  It's ridiculous!  Since when are Jews going to start following a Catholic pope?  Since when is a Catholic pope going to say the very thing that makes him pope is a fraud?  Seriously?  People actually believe this stuff?  There is no way the world's Jewish population is going to follow the pope. They haven't for 2,000 years.  What makes you think they're going to change their minds and start now?  Likewise, there is no way the pope is ever going to say his office is a fraud, just before he proclaims himself the real Jewish messiah.  It's never going to happen.  Anyone who says this nonsense doesn't have the first clue of what Catholicism is or what it teaches.  Anyone who says this is pretty ignorant of Judaism too.  Anyone who says this is ignorant of history, logic and the Bible itself.

Yet there they are, on our television screens and behind the pulpits all over America, teaching that very thing.  I suspect the alleged "Peter the Roman" prophecy of Saint Malachy is going to turn out to be a huge embarrassment, for which those non-Catholics who pushed it will quickly gloss it over and try to pretend it never happened.  They will act as if they never heard of the thing, or else they will say it doesn't matter.  Catholics can learn a lesson from this.  There is no authentic Catholic prophecy anywhere that says this pope, or some future pope, will be the Antichrist.  Likewise, there is no Biblical prophecy, whatsoever, that says the pope will be the Antichrist, the False Prophet or the Beast.  It's all made up.  It's a lie, concocted in the mind of Martin Luther 500 years ago.  To my Protestant fiends, of all denominations, I plead with you.  Abandon this insanity that Martin Luther started with his fairy tales about the pope and the Antichrist.  There is no Biblical reason, whatsoever, to believe the pope has any connection to the Antichrist, and I defy anyone to prove me wrong about that.  There are millions of Protestants who remain Protestant but have abandoned the Papal-Antichrist cabal.  There is no reason to believe this stuff any more.  Please, it is time to rejoin the world of the sane.  I leave you with this short excerpt from my upcoming book "CATHOLICISM FOR PROTESTANTS"...
QUESTION: Is the pope the Antichrist? 
ANSWER: While this question may seem ridiculous to many people, you might be surprised to discover just how many Protestants actually believe it, or are at least suspicious of it.  The notion comes from the first Protestant reformer himself – Martin Luther – in the sixteenth century, who asserted that the office of the papacy is the Antichrist.  That's not to say any particular pope, but the office of the papacy itself. So when German Protestants began to mix with English Protestants in the United States during the nineteenth century, you can imagine what an explosive combination this created.  As new American-style Protestant denominations were formed, the office of the papacy went from being the Antichrist on a purely philosophical level, to the actual incarnation of evil itself!

This notion has become very popular among some Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal groups in the United States, and is a bit humorous when you really stop and think about it.  Before we start levelling the accusation of "Antichrist" at anybody, or any office, it might help to actually understand what the Bible has to say about it.  After all, the whole idea of "Antichrist" is a Biblical concept.   
So what does the Bible say about the Antichrist?  Well, for starters, the Bible tells us that the "spirit of antichrist" was alive and well even during the Apostolic age (1st John 2:18).  It also tells us that in order to be antichrist in any way, one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Jewish Messiah (1st John 2:22).  One must also deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of flesh and blood (1st John 4:3; 2nd John 1:7).  These are the only four times the word "antichrist" appears in the Scriptures.  So based on the Biblical definition, to be an antichrist (or even THE Antichrist) one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah and one must deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of human flesh.  Sorry, that's just the Biblical definition, and since the term "Antichrist" is a Biblical term, just like the term "Christ" itself, it has no real meaning outside this Biblical definition. 
Now since every pope since the time of St. Peter has affirmed that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, that sort of disqualifies every pope in history from being an antichrist.  Of course, the office of the papacy itself was literally founded on Saint Peter's affirmation that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messianic Son of God (Matthew 16:15-19), so that disqualifies the papal office from being antichrist.  Since the pope literally teaches, and his office is literally founded upon, the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, it is literally impossible (in every Biblical sense) for the pope, or his papal office, to be the Antichrist in any way.  Again, sorry, but the Bible speaks for itself here.  To assert that the pope or the papacy is somehow, in any way, the Antichrist, is to completely deny the plain and clear teaching of the Bible on this matter.  Now, if some people want to go ahead and call the pope the Antichrist anyway, then they can go ahead, but in doing so, the rest of us need to understand they are directly contradicting the Bible when they do this.
You can read more answers to questions like this in my book CATHOLICISM FOR PROTESTANTS.  As this section from my book points out, it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for this pope (or any pope) to be the Antichrist, or any agent that assists the Antichrist in any way (such as the supposed "False Prophet" for example). The entire purpose of the papacy is to give glory to Jesus Christ of Nazareth as the promised Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world.  If a "pope" ever failed to do that, by corruption, heresy or apostasy, he would be declared an "antipope" which means, under Church law, that he was never a pope at all.  The Catholic Church has had antipopes in the past.  They were dethroned and replaced.  Is it possible for the Catholic Church to have an antipope in the future?  Sure it is, but this isn't what the Evangelicals are talking about with their "Peter the Roman" or "Petrus Romanus" hysteria.  What they are talking about is the actual pope becoming the prophesied Antichrist, because in their view, all popes are "antichrists" (small "a") by virtue of the papal office.  As I said above, they NEED this to be the case, in order to justify the history of theft and violence that surrounds the Reformation Age and the venomous anti-Catholicism that has permeated Protestant nations throughout history.  How else does one justify the criminalisation of Catholicism in England for hundreds of years?  How else does one justify the persecution of the Catholic Irish by the Protestant English crown?  How else does one justify the criminalisation of Catholicism in America during the English colonial days?  How else does one justify the creation of an anti-Catholic political party in the early days of the United States?  How else does one justify the continual anti-Catholicism in American politics all the way up until the early 20th century?  If the pope is not the Antichrist, or at least "an antichrist" (small "a") then the history of theft, violence and bigotry looks rather silly -- or dare I say "unchristian."

There is more.  It's not just about history.  It's also about the future, specifically their future.  You see, within many Evangelical circles (not all but many), there is a very unhealthy interest in future prophecy, to the point where that's all some Evangelicals think about.  They are obsessed with the Book of Revelation and the end of the world.  Now granted, such obsessions do bring in new members, and they know it.  Many of those new members are former Catholics, and they know that too.  The early Protestant Reformers knew that in order to get the majority of Catholic Christians in northern Europe to follow them, they would need to scare them into obedience.  Martin Luther discovered that the best way to do this was to frighten them with tales that the pope is the Antichrist.  It worked so well that Protestants have been frightening people with these tales ever since.  More talk of the pope as the Antichrist, or having some connection with the Antichrist, creates more frightened members in the pews.  While keeping members in the pews frightened, insures they will stay in the pews.  It's the perfect scam, and it's been going on for five centuries!  Now granted, not all Protestants are guilty of this, and a good number of Protestant churches that used to engage in this have stopped.  That's good, but it is nowhere near over.  These pedallers of pope fiction can still be found behind the pulpits, on the airwaves and especially on the Internet.  It's a very lucrative business.  Just ask Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (Left Behind Series), or Thomas Horn and Cris Putnam (Petrus Romanus & Exo-Vaticana).  These authors are just the tip of the iceberg of what I would consider the "more respectable" pedallers of pope fiction.  Many of their claims are highly speculative, or just outright false, even outrageous, but at least they show some civility in making them.  All too often however, these people, and others like them, never consider the consequences of their actions.  By slandering the papacy the way they do, they leave millions of unsuspecting Protestants with the impression that Catholics follow the Antichrist, and millions more innocent Catholics with having to deal with more harmful propaganda against their Church, their leaders and their faith in general.  It would seem that many of these pedallers of pope fiction, in their zeal to find the Biblical Antichrist, have forgotten a very important part of Scripture in the process...

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."
-- Exodus 20:16

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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Steve Dalton said…
Your comments that the Anti-Christ will be a Jew is Biblically accurate. John defines Anti-Christ as one who denies Jesus is the Christ come in the flesh. The unconverted Jews have always denied Jesus was the incarnated Messiah. The Talmud boldly proclaims this as dogma. Is it any wonder why John records our Lord as saying to the Christ-rejecting Jews "that you are of your father, the devil, that they say they are Jews, but they are not, and their religion is the synagogue of Satan"?
Shane Schaetzel said…
Steve, you are quite right in you Biblical observation. However, as non-Jews we do have to be extra careful about how we address these things, especially considering the difficult history between Jews and Gentiles, even in modern times.

The Scriptures do say all the things you point out. However, I think it's important to remember that when they record these things, these are Jews writing them. So it is Jews criticising other Jews. That's important to remember. It's kind of like one ethnic group criticising people within that ethnic group. Everything is fine until people outside that ethnic group start levelling the same criticism. Then we run into some problems.

When it comes to these issues, regarding the Antichrist, the New Israel (which is the Catholic Church), and those Jews who have rejected their calling to the New Israel, I think the best thing to do is acknowledge that the believing Jews in the New Testament had some very harsh words for their brethren who rejected the Messiah, and then just leave it at that. If we can do that, I think it minimises problems.

The real problem comes when the identity of people are not recognised. Protestantism has always had difficulty identifying the New Israel of God. This is especially true in modern times. As a result, passages of Scripture in the New Testament, in which Jews criticise other Jews, have been misapplied, taking on a "Gentile against Jew" interpretation. That is bad news, and it's resulted in all sorts of atrocities that diminish the dignity of both peoples.

This is where the Second Vatican Council attempts to apply a remedy, in reminding Catholics that the sin of rejecting Christ can only be applied to that one generation of Jewish leaders 2,000 years ago. It cannot be applied to all Jews throughout history. (The child is not guilty of his parents' sins.) This principle applies universally, and is part of the nature of a just God. The saying of the Jerusalem mob "his blood be upon us and on our children" is not a statement of God's intentions. It is rather an indication if how wicked that generation really was. (I mean, who in their right mind would ever wish such a thing!) That generation was judged, forty years later, when Jerusalem was sieged and burned to the ground. Now, I suppose we could point to other periods of history, wherein some Jews behaved in ways that were unbecoming or "unjewish," but these would be isolated incidents with particular people. Again, we cannot blame them all. Why would we even want to?

I bring this up only because of the nasty history between Jews and Gentiles in the last century -- particularly in Europe. Thankfully, such problems have never been so bad in North America. The New Testament is highly critical of Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, but we should remember that it was written by Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. It's a book of Jews criticising other Jews, and we must remember that. In that context we have the whole concept of the Antichrist, which literally means "false messiah." Outside of a strictly Jewish context, this whole concept is meaningless. Just as the real Messiah (Jesus) was Jewish, so the false Messiah (Antichrist) must be Jewish. Again, outside of this context, the whole thing is meaningless. The early Gentile Christians understood this all too well, which is why they always pointed to a future Jewish Antichrist. I think it is reasonable to assume that while this future Antichrist will be a problem to all Christians worldwide, I suspect the people who will have the most problem with him will be the Christian Jews living in the Holy Land. Again, this makes the most sense contextually.
Rob French said…
Although I appreciate the fairness you attempted to demonstrate in addressing the question. I disagree with your caricature of Martin Luther. Regardless of whom we are speaking of, as Christ followers from whatever flavor of Christianity we fellowship in, assigning such values is exactly how SOME evangelicals make such claims concerning the leader(s) of the catholic church and how SOME catholics make claims against protestants. The reality of the Body of Christ and the Church, is simply that, it is His Church. It is through the totality of Christian expressions that we best see our Infinite Father's Glory and it is through His Spirit that our diverse unity speaks to His Glory. Obviously the Lord has blessed you with the privilege of theological education, may you use this blessing in ways that honors His name and His purposes. I would highly recommend the body of a fellow Catholic's work: Lamin Sanneh.
A fellow believer in Christ Jesus
Gabbie R said…
As a former Orthodox Jew who became a Traditional Roman Catholic in 1978, I want to say that I firmly believe, based on Scripture and Catholic prophecy, that the anti-christ will be a Jew. The reason for this is that the Jews would not accept a man as a false messiah unless he was Jewish.Traditional Judaism teaches that Jews are still the chosen people of God, and that in the Olam ha'Ba, they will rule with righteous Gentiles acting as their servants. There is a very strict separation between religious Jews and Gentiles, they would never, COULD never accept a nonJew as a Messiah (or false messiah, i.e., antichrist.)