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A new documentary is the first effort to take an objective look at the prophecies of a 12th century Irish Catholic saint and what they portend for the future of the Church and Pope Francis.

According to the Prophecy of the Popes, a time of vast biblical significance is now at hand.

“The Last Pope?” includes medieval historians, Vatican-affiliated experts and authors. From Ireland to Italy, “The Last Pope?” tells a riveting story of eschatological intrigue. The film is based on the book, “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope is Here,” by Tom Horn and Cris Putnam.

“The Last Pope?” delves deeply into the prophecies of St. Malachy, an Irish saint and archbishop of Armagh who lived from 1094 to 1148. Malachy’s “Prophesies of the Popes” is said to be based on a prophetic vision of the 112 popes following Pope Celestine II, who died in 1144.

Malachy’s prophecies, first published in 1595, culminate with the “final pope,” “Petrus Romanus,” or “Peter the Roman,” whose reign ends with the destruction of Rome and the judgment of Christ. A modern version of Malachy’s prophecies was published in 1969 by Archbishop H. E. Cardinale, the Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium and Luxembourg.

The film examines Malachy’s prophecies, which are a series of statements that purportedly provide clues as the identity of each of the 112 popes, in a critical light. Some of the statements refer to a particular town, while others make references to the coat of arms representing each pontiff.

Skeptics have said the book is nothing more than a collection of phrases similar to the writings of Nostradamus. Putman says people have a right to be skeptical, and if Malachy’s revelations are correct, they should stand up to scrutiny using the scientific method. He goes on to say that they provide a fascinating insight into the history of the popes.

“The way the scientific method works is you develop a hypothesis and you don’t try to prove a hypothesis, you try to disprove it,” Putnam said. “It’s easy to find some kind of confirming evidence if you go fishing around. In a lot of these prophecies, I think that’s a valid criticism.”

However, he says one pope in particular stands out in the prophecy surrounding his reign. For Pope Benedict XV, who was pontiff from 1914 to 1922, Malachy’s prophesy says “Religio Depopulata” or “religion depopulated.”

“Religion depopulated, now that is a bold prediction. With all things being equal, you wouldn’t expect religion to be depopulated,” Putnam said. “It might go up and down a little bit, the church might grow it might fall off a bit, but that is a risky position. It is easily falsifiable. If nothing happened during his reign, I would think that this prophecy would’ve been falsified, but what happens during Benedict XV’s reign?

“This was the onset of World War I, which was devastating. In the Soviet Union and Russia, we see the Bolshevik revolution. This is the beginning of militant atheism and the time that 200 million people left the church. Probably more than in any time in history, religion was depopulated, exactly when this prophecy predicted it would hundreds of years before.”

While the Catholic Church has had more than 400 years to dispute the procedures, a least one pope seemed to take stock in the prophecy. Pastor Angelicus, or the “Angel Pope,” was given to describe Pius XII, who was a fierce anti-communist.

Pius XII had a documentary made about himself, which he titled “The Angel Pope.”

“He was intimately involved in this project, and it even said how it exemplifies a day in the life of St. Malachy’s angelic shepherd in the heading,” Putnam said. “The Catholic Church has had 400 years to make a statement disputing [Malachy's predictions], but here we have one of their infallible popes who obviously claimed it for himself. That begs an explanation from any scholar who wants to dismiss it.”

Malachy’s prophecies appear to even have an eerie prediction regarding John Paul I, who was only pope for just more than a month. Describing John Paul I, Malachy says he is “of the half moon.” Interestingly, John Paul I ascended to the papacy on the day of the half moon.

“What makes it even more chilling is he only lived for one lunar cycle; he died after 33 days,” Putnam said.

Following the death of John Paul I, evidence suggested that the pontiff may have been poisoned. The details are covered in the book “Murder in the Vatican” by Avro Manhattan. Regardless of the cause of his demise, a statement made by John Paul I seems to indicate he had some knowledge of his impending death.

Cardinal Luciani, patriarch of Venice, was asked in Latin, “Do you accept your election as Supreme Pontiff, which has been canonically carried out?” His reply was unexpected as he said, “May God forgive you for what you have done in my regard.” In just more than a month, he was dead, supposedly dying in his sleep.

While Malachy’s prophecies have been around for centuries, Pope Francis is the final pope mentioned by the archbishop. If his prophecies are correct, Francis could be the last pope before the return of Jesus Christ.

Dr. George Grant, a historian and former pastor who has written more than 60 books, says regardless of whether there is any validity to the prophecies, sooner or later Pope Francis and the Vatican will have to deal with issue.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s true; it matters whether people think it’s true and that they act in light of it,” Grant said. “Francis and the Vatican will have to deal with this in some way, and in dealing with it they are in a sense giving credence to it. Do I think we need to pay attention to it? Absolutely.”

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