Did Saint Francis Predict Pope Francis?

from:

The Remnant

Did Saint Francis Predict Pope Francis?

Traditionalists are often derided by neo-Catholic commentators for relying on supposedly apocryphal quotations from Popes or saints bearing on the current ecclesial crisis.  But these critics never demonstrate that the oft-cited quotations are apocryphal; they merely assert that they must be, as they seem too good to be true.  This is often done in comment boxes or responses to online queries at neo-Catholic websites, wherein the neo-Catholic commentator professes he can find no source for a given quotation—meaning he hasn’t bothered to do any serious investigation beyond a few Google searches.

Take this quotation of Pius XII, for example, speaking in 1931 when he was still Monsignor Pacelli, serving as Pius XI’s Secretary of State:

I am worried by the Blessed Virgin’s messages to Lucy of Fatima. This persistence of Mary about the dangers which menace the Church is a divine warning against the suicide that would be represented by the alteration of the faith, in her liturgy, her theology and her soul….

I hear all around me innovators who wish to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the universal flame of the Church, reject her ornaments and make her feel remorse for her historical past.

A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted.  She will be tempted to believe that man has become God. In our churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask, “Where have they taken Him?”

When I first cited this quotation some 17 years ago, I was contacted by a very prominent neo-Catholic luminary who demanded a source for it, because he and his friends believed it was “apocryphal.”  I did not receive the courtesy of a thank-you when I pointed him to pp. 52-53 of Msgr. Roche’s biography of Pius XII, Pie XII Devant L’Histoire (Paris: Editions Robert Laffont, 1972), an out-of-print French-language work I managed to obtain after an extensive search of used book seller inventory.  The French original text confirms the accuracy of the English translation I had seen before I cited the statement.

A Modernist apostate priest, one Emile Poulet, who left the priesthood and married, attempted to cast doubt on the credibility of Msgr. Roche’s account of the words of the future Pius XII. Small wonder: Poulet, who died in 2014 at the age of 94, belonged to the “worker-priest” movement that none other than Pius XII had condemned, as I note here.  His attempt to debunk the quotation involved nit-picking about what he claimed were factual errors elsewhere in the Roche biography.  But he had no evidence that the quotation as such was a fabrication.  He simply wished that it was so.

Let’s give our neo-Catholic friends another “apocryphal” quotation to dismiss out of hand.  This one pertains to an astonishing prophecy by Saint Francis of Assisi about a future occupant of the Chair of Peter:

A short time before the holy Father’s [St. Francis’] death, he called together his children and warned them of the coming troubles:

“Act bravely, my brethren; take courage and trust in the Lord.  The time is fast approaching in which there will be great trials and afflictions; perplexities and dissensions, both spiritual and temporal, will abound; the charity of many will grow cold, and the malice of the wicked will increase. The devils will have unusual power; the immaculate purity of our Order, and of others, will be so much obscured that there will be very few Christians who obey the Supreme Pontiff and the Roman Church with loyal ears and perfect charity.

“At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavour to draw many into error and death. Then scandals will be multiplied, our Order will be divided, and many others will be entirely destroyed, because they will consent to error instead of opposing it.

“There will be such diversity of opinions and schisms among the people, the religious and the clergy, that, except those days were shortened, according to the words of the Gospel, even the elect would be led into error, were they not specially guided, amid such great confusion, by the immense mercy of God….

Those who persevere in their fervor and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth, will suffer injuries and persecutions as rebels and schismatics; for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits, will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men from the face of the earth…

“Some preachers will keep silent about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Our Lord Jesus Christ will send them, not a true Pastor, but a destroyer.”  [paragraph breaks added]

This quotation appears in Works of the Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, published in 1882 by the London-based Catholic publishing house R. Washbourne, 1882, pp. 248-250).  It is readily available as a Google book.  The same book, it must be noted, contains an appendix setting forth “Doubtful Works of Saint Francis,” of which the quotation is not part.  Thus, the publisher itself carefully distinguished the authentic prophecies of Saint Francis from what might be apocryphal. Moreover, in 1882 there could hardly have been any “radical traditionalist” motive to circulate phony quotations of the saint.

St. Francis in ecstacy“St. Francis in Ecstasy”, Caravaggio, 1595

Saint Francis’ prophecy is clearly not a prediction of the Great Western Schism (1378-1417), which did not involve a “destroyer” on the Chair of Peter who leads the faithful into error, widespread apostasy, and the persecution of faithful Catholics as “schismatics.”  But it does contain elements very familiar to us today.  And what inference might one draw from the coincidence that Saint Francis’ prophecy of a future “destroyer” in the papal office seems to correspond rather well with the pontificate of the only Pope who has taken Francis’ name as his own?

Something else to consider:  Saint Francis, one of the greatest saints in Church history, one of the few who is known and revered by the whole world, freely revealed his vision of an ecclesial destroyer who usurps the papal office.  That is, Saint Francis did not suffer from the currently reigning papolatry, which holds that the indefectibility of the Church depends upon defending every word and deed of a given Pope as somehow consistent with Tradition and declares absolutely inadmissible the idea that the holder of the Petrine office could be a threat to the integrity of the Faith. Rather, Saint Francis, illuminated by heaven itself, recognized the coming reality of what Saint Robert Bellarmine, a Doctor of the Church, hypothesized as possible in principle, to cite another “apocryphal” quotation:

Just as it is licit to resist the Pontiff that aggresses the body, it is also licit to resist the one who aggresses souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist by not doing what he orders and by preventing his will from being executed…

De Controversiis on the Roman Pontiff, trans. Ryan Grant (Mediatrix Press: 2015), Book II, Chapter 29, p. 303.

Did Saint Francis predict the coming of Pope Francis?  That is not for us to judge, although the Church may­ well issue a judgment of Francis like that of the posthumous anathema of Honorius­­ I. Would Saint Francis have been horrified by the words and deeds of the Pope who has presumed to take his name?  That question answers itself.

 

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9 Responses to Did Saint Francis Predict Pope Francis?

  1. Christopher, you say of the Pius XII quotation that it comes from 1931 when “he was still Monsignor Pacelli, serving as Pius XI’s Secretary of State.” The second point is correct but the first is not. Eugenio Pacelli was nominated titular Atchbishop of Sardes upon his being named Apostolic Nuncio to Bavaria in April of 1917. Of course, he could still thereafter be addressed as “Monsignor”. However, that ceased to be the case in December of 1929 when he was created Cardinal Priest in the title of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. (Appointed Secretary of State just under two months later, on February 7, 1930.)

  2. toadspittle says:

    …So there, Christopher!
    “The time is fast approaching in which there will be great trials and afflictions; perplexities and dissensions, both spiritual and temporal, will abound; the charity of many will grow cold, and the malice of the wicked will increase. etc, etc”
    When did St. Francis write this – 1226? If it refers to today, and If you believe that constitutes “fast approaching,” then God bless you..
    However, it can, and does, refer to all the futile and anarchistic times mankind has endured for the last 7,000 years. At least.
    And more probably to the last 250,000 years – since we first stood upright and started the seemingly eternal process of killing each other – over differences of opinion.

  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Can’t say as I’m persuaded the Franciscan quote is authentic, based only upon the quoted secondary source in England from 1882. Is it taken from an original primary source – say a diary entry written by a disciple of St Francis just after hearing his spoken words – or is it a recollection by one of his followers written down years later? This report by the estimable Mr Ferrara is unclear.

  4. kathleen says:

    I don’t believe there is any base for doubting the authenticity of St Francis of Assisi’s quote! Chris Ferrara points out that is was not contained in the mentioned book’s appendix of “Doubtful Works of Saint Francis”!
    I believe the quote was first written in his Rule, wasn’t it? It has been known for hundreds of years anyway, long before 1882.

    St Francis had called all his followers to his bedside as he lay dying to pass on this prophetic message to them for future generations. Could one doubt the honesty or integrity of this exceptional saint?
    Of course not.
    And that of his followers, who had left behind all worldly pleasures to give themselves to Christ in humility and holy poverty in the footsteps of St Francis?
    No, such an idea would be unthinkable.

    That is not to say that doubtful words attributed to St Francis do not exist. They do! One that comes to mind is: “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words!”
    It’s a great quote – something St Francis could easily have said – but there’s no record of it truly having come from him.

  5. johnhenrycn says:

    Kathleen, you say: “I believe the quote was first written in his Rule, wasn’t it?
    Perhaps it was – I don’t know – but Mr Ferrara says it was uttered by St Francis on his deathbed. Whichever, there’s no harm asking that the first written source be cited and shown.

    You go on to say: “St Francis had called all his followers to his bedside as he lay dying to pass on this prophetic message to them for future generations. Could one doubt the honesty or integrity of this exceptional saint?”

    What’s being questioned, in an academic way, is not the honesty of St Francis, but whether the particulars of his supposed deathbed prophecy have been accurately handed down – not to mention whether St Francis meant Pope Francis or some other pope. While I’m interested in and definitely open to the notion (as per this supposed prophecy) that Pope Francis is “not canonically elected”, etc., I choose to research that issue on firmer ground (e.g. the Galen Mafia) than on this centuries old not fully documented supposed deathbed vision.

    And then, Kathleen, after quoting St Francis: “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words!”, you end by saying: “It’s a great quote – something St Francis could easily have said – but there’s no record of it truly having come from him”, thus proving my whole point concerning this particular prophecy – was it ever made?
    ___
    Not to get too off topic, but this discussion brings to mind the recent news of a woman in Italy shedding blood from her forehead. There’s a possible medical explanation, but no matter – what interested me about that report is that it brings to mind the Agony in the Garden passage in the Douay-Rheims version of Luke 22:44 about how Jesus’ sweat became “as drops of blood”. The problem is: where did the Douay-Rheims translators come by that “drops of blood” idea, even if only as a simile, because it doesn’t appear in the written record until centuries after Luke’s Gospel was first known, according to my limited readings. The Catholic edition of the RSV, for example, omits that verse entirely, and verse 43 also, because of dubious authentication.

    If versions of the Holy Bible differ, which they do even amongst Catholic ones, what are we to say about off-the-record prophesies by our holy saints?

  6. johnhenrycn says:

    btw: I’m not a doppelgänger of our most dear and valued Brother Buritto who, near the end of his time here, began to ask unsettling questions about orthodox beliefs, much less a fellow traveller of the Toad who still asks them, although mostly in a very boring and forgettable way.

  7. SteveD says:

    ‘Did St. Francis predict Pope Francis?’ Probably, unless things are about to get a whole lot worse. ‘Fast approaching’ is quite reasonable when timescales of 7,000 and even 250,000 years are quoted by the person questioning the applicability of the phrase when Francis was indicating a period of a mere 788 years. There was (as had been said), at the time this was first quoted, no reason to fabricate it and so it is reasonable, in the absence of clear counter-proof, to believe it. I do and our current situation is a clear positive indicator, if not proof, of its veracity – Consider the Franciscans of the Immaculate (true sons and daughters of their founder) and their suffering under this pontificate. Choosing the Papal name of Francis is both a discourtesy to Franciscans and an implied and unwarranted claim to the Saint’s virtues.

  8. kathleen says:

    @ JH

    “What’s being questioned, in an academic way, is not the honesty of St Francis, but whether the particulars of his supposed deathbed prophecy have been accurately handed down “

    The first citing of the mentioned quote would evidently go back to that of his immediate followers present at his deathbed. I don’t see any reason to doubt it’s veracity, or their honesty… Which is what I was trying to explain above (^), but obviously not making myself very clear!
    It was also why I mentioned one of the quotes that are of dubious authorship, but attributed to St Francis, to demonstrate the difference, but hey, JH, you have used it in order to twist my meaning and to make your own point! 😉

    Whether St Francis was referring to Pope Francis or “another Pope” in his prophecy is, I agree, debatable. It certainly seems he could have been, with many of the saint’s descriptions of the coming “trials and afflictions” as well as the unorthodox way Pope Francis was elected to the Chair of St Peter (re the St Galen mafioso group) appearing to fit in with our situation in the Church today.
    Many other similar prophecies forecasting coming times of great upheaval in the Church also appear to fit in with St Francis’ prophecy. E.g., Our Lady of Good Success at Quito, Ecuador, around 400 years ago; Our Lady at La Salette in the 19th century; the revelations of Our Lady in Akita in the 70s; these are just some examples.
    Our Lord tells us to be aware of the signs of the times we live in. Perhaps He was sending us, men and women of the 21st century today, a warning not to put our heads in the sand, ostrich-fashion! We must fight back against the evils of our times: it is our God-given duty as ‘soldiers of Christ’.

    ****

    (No, I never for a moment thought that you had become a “doppelgänger” of our dear team-mate, BB, currently on a sort of sabbatical… nor one of the boring old relativist, Toad [who once, long ago, used to sometimes put me into fits of giggles]… for you, and your views on every topic discussed on these pages, is completely unique, JH, and always most engaging. 😊)

  9. kathleen says:

    @ Steve

    “Consider the Franciscans of the Immaculate (true sons and daughters of their founder) and their suffering under this pontificate.”

    Great reminder, Steve! In the past we posted many articles on the deplorable situation of this devout, traditional and once-flourishing Order of Franciscans who have been so viciously treated under Pope Francis’ orders. Nothing has changed either – they are still in a sort of Limbo with their houses in disarray – despite Pope Francis’ false promises (when asked by some of their many followers) that the “problems” would soon be resolved!
    In truth, the only real problems were, for this left-wing progressive pope, that the Franciscans of the Immaculate were too Catholic! Too faithful to the Magisterial teachings of the Church and Her beautiful, ancient Liturgy. Not Protestant enough!

    Under this current Pontificate it is extremely doubtful they will be allowed to return to their former evangelising splendour.

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