An author who predicted Pope Benedict XVI would be the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign is keeping close watch on the conclave of cardinals through the lens of a medieval prophecy that indicates the man they select will be history’s “final pope.”

Tom Horn, co-author of the book “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope is Here,” told WND he has a list of 10 men among the 115 sequestered in the Sistine Chapel who best fit St. Malachy’s “Prophecy of the Popes,” said to be based on a prophetic vision of the 112 popes following Pope Celestine II, who died in 1144.

As WND reported, Horn and his co-author, Cris Putnam, predicted in their book Benedict would step down last April, and it turns out that April apparently was when Benedict made the historic decision he announced to the world last month.

“We said if he didn’t step down in 2012, he certainly would in 2013,” Horn told WND.

Malachy’s prophecies culminate with the “final pope,” “Peter the Roman,” whose reign ends with the destruction of Rome and the judgment of Christ.

Horn said he concluded Benedict would resign rather than die in the papacy based not only on St. Malachy but also on a host of historical and current information.

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Earlier today, a plume of white smoke from the Sistine Chapel indicated the cardinals have chosen the 266th pope on the second day of conclave.

The 2012 prediction

Remarkably, Horn told WND, more than 60 years ago a Belgian Jesuit theologian and academic named Rene Thibault came up with the date 2012 as the culmination of Malachy’s prophecies.

Thibault’s rare 1951 book, “The Mysterious Prophecy of the Popes,” was published in French only four months before Thibault died.

Horn and Putnam translated the Belgian priest’s work into English.

“Adopting the methodology of a mystic as well as a scholar,” Horn and Putnam write in the first chapter of their book, Thibault “makes a compelling case that ‘The Prophecy of the Popes’ is a real supernatural prophecy.”

Horn noted Thibault is among many Catholic leaders, including popes, cardinals and priests, who have affirmed Malachy’s work, which was kept in the Vatican archives for five centuries before it was first published in 1595.

He said Thibault used a number of methods of cryptographic analysis to come up with the date 2012, including calculating the average length of papal reign up until the time he wrote his book.

“In other words,” Horn and Putnam write, “2012 was seen as an end-times ‘event horizon’ by at least one Jesuit priest before most readers were born.”

St. Malachy, an Irish saint and the archbishop of Armagh, who lived from 1094 to 1148, described the “final pope” this way: “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.”

As WND reported, he described the penultimate pope, which Horn believes is Benedict, as “Gloria Olivae,” or “Glory of the Olive.”

Benedict was not a Benedictine priest, yet he chose the name of the founder of the Order of Saint Benedict, which also is known as the Olivetans

The symbol of the Benedictine order includes an olive branch.

Top 10

Horn and his co-author have created a list of 10 candidates to succeed Benedict and become “Peter the Roman.”

In their top three is Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan. Horn said Scola has at least 50 of the Italian cardinals in his corner, which puts him in a very strong position.

But Horn noted that anti-Mafia police today raided the offices in his diocese, which could hurt his standing with other cardinals.

Interestingly, a leading candidate is Cardinal Tarcisio Pietro (Peter) Evasio Bertone, the cardinal secretary of state, who was born in Romano, Italy. His name could, as WND reported last month, therefore, be rendered “Peter the Roman” or “Petrus Romanus.”

Horn pointed out, however, that while Bertone appeared to be Benedict’s choice to succeed him, recently leaked Vatican documents include letters Bertone wrote to his secretary of state predecessor that indicate a tumultuous relationship and cast him in a negative light.

“I think, as a result, that has weakened Bertone’s opportunity to be elected,” Horn said. “But he is an Italian, and those guys stick together.

Many cardinals, on the other hand, Horn said, want to see someone outside of Italy, and a couple of leading Peters are Peter Turkson of Ghana, who would be the first African pope, and Peter Erdo of Hungary.

Turkson is the current president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Regardless, Horn said he’s always maintained that it doesn’t take someone whose Christian name is Peter to fulfill the prophecy.

“In fact, if any Italian is elected, that would be a fairly transparent fulfillment,” he said.

Moreover, he argued, “in a very general sense, every pope could be regarded as ‘Peter the Roman,’ and in that sense, this could be the last one.”

“You had the first Peter, you had the last one.”

Along with Bertone, Turkson and Scola, the other candidates on Horn’s list are Francis Arinze of Nigeria; Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy, the president of the pontifical council for culture; Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, the prefect of the congregation for the oriental churches; Ennio Antonelli of Italy, retired president of the pontifical council for the family; Jean-Louis Tauran of France, president of the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue; Christoph Schönborn of Vienna; and Marc Ouellet of Quebec, president of the pontifical commission for Latin America.

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