Next and Last Pope

free to carry her own ecclesiastical privileges, such as selecting a pope to succeed Pius VI. Her representatives needed the permission of Napoleon Bonaparte before they could appoint Pius VII in 1800 to succeed the pope who died in exile, a year earlier.

Furthermore, the wilderness experience for the Catholic Church came to bear on her in a most profound way from an entirely unexpected direction – from her own backyard, Italy. Here is the background for the harsh and arid realities of life that faced the Catholic Church in Italy in the nineteenth century.

After the second and final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Italians found their peninsula divided into states, duchies, and Papal States. Metternich, the strong Austrian leader at the time, used to refer to Italy as a mere ‘geographical expression’, reflecting the absence of united country. This odd situation gave rise to nationalistic attempts to unify Italy into one country. However, these attempts were met with great suspicion and resistance from the Catholic Church. Over time, the conviction grew in the minds of these nationalistic leaders that the Catholic Church was indeed a serious obstacle to the fulfillment of their national aspirations.

However, the move to unite Italy and form a united nation passed an important milestone when the Papal States were usurped in 1860 by force. There remained one major obstacle, however, for the creation of one Italian nation. The Italians wanted Rome, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the last piece of property left for the Church, to serve as the capital of their united country. This Italian dream came about when Italian troops occupied Rome on September 20, 1870, during the reign of Pope Pius IX. Shortly after, the Kingdom of Italy was declared.

Understandably, the pope refused to recognize the new kingdom and went into voluntary captivity in protest. This unprecedented situation came to be known historically as the Roman Question. It remained unresolved for 59 years, during which time all succeeding popes confined themselves to movement within the few buildings in the Vatican in Rome, refusing to leave Rome. Indeed, the Catholic Church in the nineteenth century was engulfed in a very hostile wilderness setting.

In summary: we have seen thus far that from 1798 (when Pope Pius VI was banished to Valence by the French general) up to 1870 (when Rome was usurped by the Italian army), the Roman Catholic Church was entrenched in her wilderness experience – a far cry from the dominating beast status she had enjoyed during her 1260 years of supremacy when she was a global persecuting power which directly, or through her over-powering influence over European rulers, caused the martyrdom of close to one hundred million of God’s faithful followers.

7. How was the Roman Question between Italy and the Roman Catholic Church resolved in 1929?

It was incomprehensible for the Roman Pontiff to be the head of Catholics the world over, yet in his own country be subject to another head of state. The Catholic Church believed that by virtue of his calling, the pope had an inalienable right to a temporal sovereignty. Only then could he conduct fully and freely his duties as head of the universal Catholic Church. But this demand conflicted with the natural desire of the Italians for a united nation with Rome as its capital. Italians after 1870 found themselves torn between their allegiance to the Catholic Church as Catholics themselves, and their allegiance to their newly-established country. This unresolved tension between the two sides undermined the new country internationally as well as domestically. A solution for the Roman Question had to be found!

Both sides of the conflict were eager for an end to this lingering problem. In 1922, Benito Mussolini, the Duke, and Pope Pius XI came to power. And by 1929 they had at last found a solution to the thorny Roman Question that had lasted 59 years. On February 11, 1929, three sets of documents, known collectively as the Lateran Accords, were signed in Rome at the Lateran Palace by Cardinal Gasparri, representing Pope Pius XI, and Mussolini, representing King Victor Emanuel III.

8. Give a summary of the highlights of the 1929 Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Catholic Church of Rome.

1. The Italian State recognized the sovereignty of the Catholic Church, and regarded the Church as an independent member of the international community. By this agreement the Church obtained an independent state in Rome with an area of about 44 hectares.

2. The Italian State recognized the Roman Catholic Church as the official state religion, and the Catholic church recognised the independent Kingdom of Italy.

3. All anti-clerical laws passed by the Italian parliament since 1870 were annulled and made void.

4. Cash settlement was made to the Roman Catholic Church to compensate her for renouncing all legal claims to the City of Rome and the old Papal States.

5. The pope pledged to perpetual neutrality in international relations, and abstention from mediation in any controversy except when specifically requested by all concerned parties.

9. What is the significance of the Lateran Treaty of 1929 to the wilderness experience which the Roman Catholic Church was in since 1798?

What the Roman Catholic Church got in 1929 was its independence and sovereignty. The political independence means that now they had a monarchy, although on much reduced area of land, where the pope was the absolute ruler. The pope now was not only the supreme head of the Catholic Church universally, but also the indisputable temporal king over the State of Vatican City. He was no longer a prisoner of captivity.

Notwithstanding, the Roman Catholic Church did not, in 1929, even remotely regain the stature she had prior to 1798, when she was a beast power. As such, she did not, in 1929, yet come out of her wilderness experience. Although in 1929, and by virtue of the Lateran Treaty, the popes were now universally recognized as sovereign kings, the Lateran Treaty however stipulated that the popes must pledge to perpetual neutrality in international affairs. This restricting condition could not have been imagined to be agreed upon by any pope prior to 1798. The Catholic Church long believed that Christ is the Lord of the whole world, and that at His departure He left His dominion to His representative, Peter, and to Peter’s successors, the popes. Therefore, it is the stated position of the Catholic Church that true and genuine temporal power and dominion lie exclusively in the hands of the pope. Consequently, every earthly ruler or monarch possesses only so much power and area as the pope would deem appropriate and good.

In sum, while tangible gains were secured for the Catholic Church by the Lateran Treaty, it did not restore the primacy and power the Church had enjoyed globally up to 1798, which had enabled her to persecute her enemies, and hence was tagged in Bible prophecy as a beast power. Hence there is not much significance of the Lateran treaty of 1929 to the wilderness experience of the Roman Catholic Church, as she still remained in the wilderness, even after 1929.

SEVEN KINGS

10. What about the seven kings of the Roman Catholic Church during her wilderness period?

Now we come to the most important part of the whole chapter. God has prophesied that there will be only seven kings: “And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.” Revelation 17:10. From this verse the following facts can be gleaned:

1. Seven kings in total.

2. John was taken in vision to the time of the sixth king: “five are fallen, and one is.” He comes after the first five have fallen. Again, it is not coincidental that when taken in vision, John was taken to the time of the sixth king. It is a divine hint by which God is guiding us to focus our attention on this particular king, as he will play a very important role in the end-time events.

3. The seventh king “must continue a short space.”

11. So who are the seven kings/popes?

Pius XI was the first Roman Catholic pope (from February 6, 1922) who became king as well on February 11, 1929. He along with Mussolini, engineered the Lateran Treaty.

12. What is destined to take place after the prophesied short monarchy of Benedict XVI?

“And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.” Revelation 17:11. Here, we learn the following:

1. The Roman Catholic Church was once a beast (up to 1798), but now is not (as she has been in the wilderness experience since 1798); however, she will regain the beast status (meaning she will come out of her wilderness experience) after the fall of the seventh king, Benedict XVI.

2. The next one to come after Benedict XVI will be one of the other seven kings. But he will no longer be considered a mere king, but will be a beast as well; for with him the Roman Catholic Church will regain her former power to persecute her enemies.

3. The eighth, when he comes, will be the last; for he “goeth into perdition.”

THE EIGHTH KING

13. Who is the eighth who will restore the beast status to the Roman Catholic Church anew?

To answer this question we need first to note the origin of the eighth: “The beast that thou sawest was [the Catholic Church was once a beast until 1798] and is not [during her wilderness experience], and shall ascend [after the fall of Benedict XVI, the eighth will restore her beast