Personal view Gerard Noel
ACCORDING to H Unsener's definitive work on the Epiphany, Das Wihnachfest, there is a distinctly prophetic element in the origin and symbolism of this feast. And, indeed, prophecy of one kind or another has always had a great fascination for many Catholics.
I was thus very interested in the learned letter of Mrs Plummer (December 15) commenting on my musings about the prophecies of St Malachy (December 8). She is, however, wrong in claiming that the pope denoted by the motto De Gloria Olivae will be, according, to Malachy, the last of the long line.
His text makes it clear that Peter II, the last Pope, will
follow De Gloria Olivae, but not necessarily straight away. My reading of the text suggests that there might be a very long interval between.
A doomsday scenario of sorts characterises each of the works of the principal papal prophets of the past. These were St Hildegarde von Bingen (1098-1179), Joachim de Fiore (1135-1202) and, most famously of all, Nostradamus (15031566).
Among the events foretold by the latter were that towards the end of the second millennium the following things would happen: the Church would forfeit a degree of moral integrity through its compromise with a political tyranny (fascism?); it would be shaken by the mysterious sudden death of a pope who was about to reveal an ecclesiastical scandal (John Paul II?); and a plague would descend on the clergy due to some medical aberration (pederasty?).
That the prophecies of Malachy are so fanciful and capable of almost any inter
pretation is hardly surprising in view of their mysterious origin.
They were first published in 1595 by the Dominican researcher Dom Arnold Wion who claimed to have "found" the prophecies hidden in the Vatican archives.
He then presented them to the world having attributed them to the sixth century Archbishop of Armagh after his visit to Rome and his alleged visionary experience on the Janiculum hill. When, or by whom, they were actually written will never be known for certain.
What we do know for certain, however, are the totally new circumstances and conditions that will surround the next conclave. These have been prescribed in specific detail by the present Pope.
When I was in Rome recently I attended Mass one day in the Pope's "parish church" — St Anne's — just inside the side gate to the Vatican. A little further on, behind St Peter's, is an ultramodern building where the next Pope will be chosen. About 120 cardinals will walk past, including those to be created within the next few weeks.
They will meet in conditions of unprecedented luxury compared to the austerity of the past. Here will be a stricter than ever "strip search" of all those admitted, in view of the obsessive fear currently existing over leakages.
Feelings in Rome are that it will be one of the longest conclaves for many years past, with an outsider finally emerging as the winner. If there are more than 38 scrutinies (vote counts) the required majority will be changed from two-thirds plus one to 50 per cent plus one.
There will be no difficulty in somehow linking the name of the next Pope with the Malachy motto De Gloria Olivae. This will keep the seer seekers happy.