The Last Eight Popes: Benedict XV to Benedict XVI


St. Malachy’s Prophecy of the Popes is a list of 112 short phrases in Latin. They purport to describe each of the Roman Catholic popes (along with a few anti-popes), beginning with Pope Celestine II (elected in 1143) and concluding with the successor of current pope Benedict XVI, a pope described in the prophecy as “Peter the Roman”, whose pontificate will end in the destruction of the city of Rome.

Religio depopulata – Religion depopulated

Benedict XV (1914–1922)

Giacomo Della Chiesa


During his reign 200 million Christians were converted to Bolshevism and 35 million Christians died from World War I and the Spanish influenza.


Fides intrepid – Intrepid faith

Pius XI (1922–1939)

Achille Ratti


Character themes are more open to opinion, but this motto aptly fits the character of this arch-traditionalist, anti-communist, anti-fascist pope.


Pastor angelicus – Angelic Pastor

Ven. Pius XII (1939–1958)

Eugenio Pacelli


During the Second World War, the Vatican produced a documentary, a homily to counter the bad press about the pope’s sympathies towards fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. It was called Pastor Angelicus.


Pastor et nauta – Pastor and Sailor

Bl. John XXIII (1958–1963)

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli


Before becoming pope he was patriarch of Venice, an ancient maritime city famous for its sailors. He was Venice’s shepherd and its sailor. John reformed the Church in Vatican II. The badge of Vatican II displayed a cross and a barque of St. Peter.


Flos florum – Flower of Flowers

Paul VI (1963–1978)

Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini


The arms of Paul VI display three fleur-de-lys. He is the spiritual flower of the three-flowered coat of arms.


De medietate lunæ – From the half moon

John Paul I (1978)

Albino Luciani


His Christian name, Albino Luciani (“from the White Light”), poetically describes the white light of the moon. He was a parish priest of Belluno (“good moon”). He died, or was poisoned, on the night of a waning half-moon in third quarter phase.


De labore ſolis – From the sun’s labor

Bl. John Paul II (1978–2005)

Karol Wojtyła


An eclipse is known as a sun’s travail or labor (labore) in poetic medieval Latin. He was born on the day of a total solar eclipse and was entombed in St. Peter’s Basilica on an annular solar eclipse.


Gloria olivæ – From the glory of the olive

Benedict XVI (2005–present)

Karl Ratzinger


He named himself after St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictines—who are also known as the Olivetans. Their symbol is the olive branch.



Petrus Romanus – Peter the Roman

In persecutione extrema Sacrae Romanae Ecclesiae sedebit Petrus Romanus qui pascet oves in multis tribultionibus; quibus transactis, civitas septicollis dirvetur; et Judex tremendus judicabit populum.

(Translation of the above): During the last persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there shall sit Peter of Rome, who shall feed the sheep amidst many tribulations, and when these have passed, the City of the Seven Hills shall be utterly destroyed, and the awful Judge will judge the people.





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