But here is the thing: even though the “prophecy” itself is false, Benedict himself – and many others within the Vatican hierarchy – might believe it to be true! He is a conservative Roman Catholic, devoted to orthodox Roman Catholic doctrine. A “prophecy” like Malachy’s would therefore appeal to him. Now if this is indeed the case, what is the significance? Let us see.
In Malachy’s list, the penultimate Roman pope, who answers to the present incumbent, Benedict XVI, was called “Gloria Olivae”, meaning “Glory of the Olive.” Then, Malachy wrote of the one he termed the final pope, “Petrus Romanus”, as follows: “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock among many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.”
Those within the Vatican hierarchy who believe the “prophecy” is genuine and that Benedict XVI is the penultimate pope, will be looking at a few very likely contenders for the next (and in their view, final) man to hold the position of pope of Rome. One of the leading candidates to become the next pope of Rome, as is well known in Roman Catholic circles and outside of them, is a cardinal named Tarcisio Pietro [Peter] Evasio Bertone, the powerful Vatican secretary of state, who was born in Romano, Italy. They believe he could possibly be chosen and would then easily be referred to as “Peter the Roman.” And there is another cardinal with the name Peter as well: a black African cardinal, Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Or there is the possibility that the next Roman pope will deliberately take the name of “Peter” when he assumes office. He may even do it to fulfil Malachy’s prophecy, if he believes it. As we have seen, others have deliberately sought to manipulate the prophecy so as to fulfil it, in the past.
Besides, as Horn and Putnam point out, since any pope of Rome claims to hold the “Petrine office”, any of them could be described, in general, as “Peter the Roman.”
Benedict XVI was not a Benedictine priest, but he chose the name “Benedict” when he was elected. The Popish “saint”, Benedict, was the founder of the Benedictine order of priests, and this order is also known as the Olivetans. The symbol of the order includes an olive branch. And it is entirely possible that Benedict deliberately chose that name, even though he was not of the Benedictine order, so as to do what he could to fulfil the “prophecy” of Malachy!
And therefore, there is the distinct possibility that Benedict XVI, believing there will only be one more pope of Rome before the end of the world, deliberately resigned in order to make way for this “final pope” and to fulfil the “prophecy” he truly believes in! Especially as Benedict is a traditionalist, with a longing for the “old days” before the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, with all the problems which he sees as having come into being within his beloved “Church” since then. He would love to see a far more authoritarian “Church” again, with a far more authoritarian pope reigning over it again, and a clear and unambiguous position taken that the Roman Catholic “Church” is the one true Church and there is no other true church in the world, that “outside of the Church of Rome there is no salvation”, and that the entire world should submit to the Roman pope. Well then, if he believes the “prophecy” of Malachy, he believes that he is not going to be the Roman pope to bring this about perfectly; but, since he then believes he is the penultimate pope, it is surely better for him (he would argue) to step aside to make way for the man who really will “feed his flock among many tribulations” and carry it through great persecution till the day of Christ’s return! And as he would doubtless know that (according to Thibaut’s calculations based on Malachy’s predictions) 2012 or thereabouts was the time for the final Roman pope to begin to reign, this would explain the urgency Benedict feels to resign now. After all, it is now 2013, albeit early in the year, but from his perspective no time should be lost – he must make way for the final pope of Rome!
There is even another possibility, if we look at it from a different angle: that Benedict believes that by stepping aside to make way for a stronger man, the new one could perhaps actually prevent Malachy’s prediction from coming to pass – that is, the part about the final persecution of the “Church” and the destruction of the city of Rome – by steering the “Church” back to the way it should be to such an extent that the Lord has mercy on it, and does not destroy it. In other words, he may think Malachy’s “prophecy” is merely a conditional threat of what will happen if the “Church” does not mend its ways; but that if it does, the threat of destruction will be removed.
Who knows how the mind of Joseph Ratzinger is working in these closing days of his life? All we know for certain is that he is a traditionalist who is deeply concerned about what has happened to his “Church” since Vatican II (although he is careful in his words about this), and has done what he could to reverse those trends; but what he has done is not enough, as well he knows. Therefore, he very possibly feels he should stand aside and let another man take things even further back to how (in Ratzinger’s mind) they “should be.”