St. Malachy O'More was a medieval bishop who is said to have foretold the succession of 112 popes, from Celestinus II (1143) until the final pope in the future yet to come. These predictions were in the form of a long series of Latin character mottos instead of actual names, and there is still scholarly doubt as to whether the prophecies really emanated from St. Malachy. However, other prophecies attributed to him are claimed to have been fulfilled.
He was born Maelmhaedhoc Ua Morgair in Armagh, Ireland, in 1095. His biography was written by a famous contemporary, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Malachy was the son of a well-known scholar; his mother came from a wealthy family in Bangor, county Down. His father died when Malachy was eight years old, and he was subsequently educated by a monk who later became abbot of Armagh.
Malachy was ordained by St. Celsus, an Irish Benedictine of Glastonbury, then archbishop of Armagh. He became vicar-general to Celsus, then abbot of Bangor, and later bishop of Connor, succeeding to the archbishopric in 1132. He had a reputation as a firm disciplinarian.
After six years, he resigned in order to make a pilgrimage to Rome. But during the course of his journey, he met St. Bernard at the French abbey of Clairvaux and was so impressed by him that he requested to be allowed to remain at Clairvaux as an ordinary monk. However, Pope Innocent II refused permission, since he had plans for Malachy to be primate of the combined see of Armagh and Tuam, although in the end this did not come to pass.
Malachy had a great reputation as a prophet during his own lifetime. When the son of King David of Scotland was critically ill, Malachy sprinkled him with holy water and predicted that the boy would survive. He did. When one individual tried to prevent the building of an oratory, Malachy correctly foretold his early death. According to St. Bernard, Malachy even predicted the date, place, and circumstances of his own death.
The papal prophecies seem to be extraordinarily apt, beginning with Celestine II (1143) and continuing through to modern times. The first pope was indicated by the motto "Ex Castro Tiberis" (from a castle on the Tiber); Celestine II came from Tuscany, where the Tiber rises, and his family name was Catello. The next pope was indicated by the motto "Inimicus Expulsus" (the enemy driven out); it transpired that his family name was Caccianemici, which combines "cacciare" (to drive out) and "nemici" (enemies). The next pope had the motto "Ex Magnitudine Montis" (from the great mountain); he was born in Montemagno (the great mountain).
Some scholars believe the prophecies to be sixteenth-century forgeries. Nevertheless, some of the mottos predicted for later popes have still been surprisingly apt, e.g., "Flos Florum" (flower of flowers) for Pope Paul VI (1963) seems validated by the fact that the pope had three fleur-de-lys on his armorial bearings.
According to the Malachy prophecies, the line of popes will end after the successor to Pope John Paul II. The last pope will be "Petrus Romanus" (Peter the Roman), and after that Rome will be destroyed and the world will be purified by fire. Some believe that these will be the final days of the Last Judgment, others that there will be a cleansing of the world and the commencement of a new cycle of life.
Bander, Peter. The Prophecies of St. Malachy. Gerrards Cross, England: Colin Smythe, 1969.
Dorato, M. Gli ultimi papi e la fine del mondo nelle grandi profezie. Rome: n.p., 1950.