Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD

my flight of ideas

Interregnum: The Last Pope?

Posted on | April 5, 2005 | No Comments

Is Karol Wojtyla – better known as Pope John Paul II – the last pontiff? Or is he, as is claimed by a popular saying, the third to the last Holy Father, after which the end of the world shall come?

Hold your horses – we’re not about to walk out onto the streets and wear boards shouting “the end is near!” to all those who pass. I’m just highlighting a few worries that some friends of mine were talking about yesterday, when we met and shared our grief for the death of the Pope.


Pope John Paul II’s body is carried across St. Peter’s square at the Vatican, Monday, April 4, 2005 on its way for public viewing inside St. Peter’s Basilica. With tens of thousands of mourners outside hoping for a glimpse of the body, 12 pallbearers flanked by Swiss Guards carried the late pontiff’s body on a crimson platform from the Sala Clementina, where it had laid in state since Sunday. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini )

Recently, Pope John Paul II’s body was moved from his Apostolic Palace to the Basilica of St. Peter – that huge and magnificent Church structure that is the center of the Vatican. The body was then allowed to be viewed by the general public, under constant vigil by the Swiss Guards and prayerful aides of the Pope. His transfer was effected as thus:

…as priests chanted the Litany of the Saints, 12 white-gloved pallbearers flanked by Swiss Guards in red-plumed helmets gingerly marched the body from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, where it had lain in state for prelates and dignitaries, to the basilica….

Everything was done in a ceremonial manner. Notable however was the way some pilgrims received the short procession – they were clapping! Later on I found out that this is the way Italians show grief during a funeral. It’s cultural practice on their part.

Going back to my friends’ speculations that the Pope’s death could be (not is) a harbinger of catastrophic things to come, I was reminded of a quite popular and accepted prophecy – that of the Secrets of Fatima.

Verified and accepted by the Roman Catholic Church as true and having originated from the Blessed Virgin Mary, the secrets of Fatima were revealed on May 13, 1917 to three visionaries who saw our lady there at Fatima – Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and their cousin Lucia dos Santos. The Marto siblings died early in the twentieth century in an influenza pandemic, just a few years after their vision. Lucia lived on and became a cloistered nun, but she passed away recently last February.

The first and second visions are thus elaborated:

Lucia said the first secret shown to them by Mary began with a terrifying vision of hell. Mary then indicated that the war would soon end, as World War I did in the following year. But Mary foresaw that a “night illuminated by an unknown light” would precede a “worse war” in which “The good will be martyred” and “The Holy Father will have much to suffer.” On January 25, 1938, a remarkable display of aurora borealis was visible across Europe, the year before World War II began.

The second secret involved the future of Russia. Lucia says Mary revealed that Russia would “spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars,” and that “Various nations will be annihilated.” Many believe this is a direct prophecy of the spread of communism. “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart,” continues the account of Mary’s revelation. “If people attend to My requests, Russia will be converted and the world will have peace.” Some interpret Pope John Paul II’s 1984 consecration of Russia as fulfilling the prophecy, and paving the way for the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union as the “conversion” of Russia.

The third vision, however, was written and sealed by Sister Lucia and entrusted to the Roman Catholic Church, with explicit instructions given by the Blessed Mother not to reveal it until the year 1960. It is supposed to contain this:

…a bishop in white, agonizingly making his way to the Cross through a sea of corpses of Christian martyrs, suddenly cut down by a fusilade of bullets.

Still, it was not immediately read to the public in 1960. It was only 19 years later after the assasination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981 that the mystery was ended by the Vatican. A website writes this on the third prophecy:

Vatican officials concluded that the third Fatima prophecy applied to the past, especially to the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in 1981.

The Vatican found compelling evidence to make this association during the subsequent trial of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman. During his 1985 trial Agca made the statement that his assassination attempt was “connected to the third secret of the Madonna of Fatima.” (Agca made his attack on May 13, 1981. The apparition at Fatima first occurred on May 13, 1917, exactly 64 years to the day earlier).

The Vatican, and especially Pope John Paul II, found the coincidence of dates compelling, but they were completely awestruck by Mehmet Ali Agca’s later trial announcement because no one knew the contents of the prophecy except for the Pope himself and a very few of the highest Papal Cardinals. The obvious conclusion was that Agca must have been inspired to make that claim through supernatural means. It meant that the Holy Spirit had used the gunman to verify the truth of the Fatima prophecy.

Whatever the case may be, true or not – a prophecy is a prophecy and oftentimes much of it goes plainly to hype. Remember the modern-day “prophecy” of the Millenium Bug, that when the clocks reach the end of 1999 all machinery would stop and non-compliant electronics would find their clocks back at 1900? Well the computer that I’m typing this blog entry on is non-Y2K compliant and it works fine for me in this year of 2005.

Regarding the third Fatima prophecy – John Paul II wasn’t successfully assasinated – he died of old age. Thus it can be said that there was no fusilade of bullets that caused his demise. Neither was his passing untimely, and in complete humility and transparency the late Holy Father kept on updating us through the media about his last hours here on Earth.

But his death was a cross unto him itself – for he suffered with Parkinson’s disease since 1994 and recently with bouts of infection. So speculation cannot do anything but just make us paranoid.

It does, however, make for good discussion material at times – so long as it isn’t taken that seriously. Like what another friend of mine jokingly referred to in the book Angels and Demons – that the television feeds from the Vatican are just a farce, that according to the novel the Pope has long been dead…

… I don’t think so.

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