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The Vacancy of the Holy See in the Days of Antichrist

The Vacancy of the Holy See in the Days of Antichrist

First, I would like to repeat briefly what I wrote in these my former articles: “The Visible Head and Perpetuity of the Primacy”, “The Primary Foundation and the Secondary Foundations”, “The Unbroken Succession of the Bishops of Rome”, “A Perpetual Legal Person and Jurisdiction”, “The Holy Ghost, Pope, Bishops” and “The Catholic Church and Election of a Pope”.

In these articles one can find many of arguments underscoring the truth that in the physical absence of the successor of St. Peter, the Church Militant is still alive, the Primacy of the Holy See continues, and all bishops and priests have the legal right and obligation to administer the Sacraments in unity with the Holy See.

No matter how long a vacancy of the Holy See lasts between the previous Pope and a new Pope, the perpetual line of the successors is unbroken.

In the history of the Catholic Church we find that many times the vacancy of the Holy See lasted from a few days to several years.

When someone focuses solely on the succession in ‘flesh and blood’, he thus rejects the heavenly, supernatural essence of the Institution of the Papacy.

The supernatural character of the Papacy was confirmed by the Vatican Council’s Canon Concerning the Infallible Teaching of the Roman Pontiff regarding faith or morals: “Blessed Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the universal Church.”

Jesus Christ did not institute the Papacy not on the principle of succession in the flesh. Our Lord instituted the Papacy on the principle of the unity in Faith and Morals between St. Peter’s successors and St. Peter himself.

Since the Papacy is a supernatural, heavenly Institution, It does not disappear during the periods of vacancy of the Holy See, no matter how long these periods last.

The succession of the Roman Pontiffs is not expressed in a mere mathematical number of Pontiffs, because they are not successors of each other, but rather the Roman Pontiffs are St. Peter’s successors.

Therefore, one can conclude that the succession of the Roman Pontiffs was never broken by the physical death of either St. Peternor his successors. And that is why the Canon of the Vatican Council calls them perpetual successors in the Primacy, which is of the heavenly, supernatural order of Faith and Morals, not the natural order of “flesh and blood”.

“The city may be trodden down by the barbarian conqueror, and the Pontiff may perish; but there is a vitality in the See that renders its destruction impossible.” (THE PRIMACY OF THE APOSTOLIC SEE VINDICATED, BY FRANCIS PATRICK KENRICK, ARCHBISHOP OF BALTIMORE, SEVENTH REVISED EDITION, BALTIMORE: PUBLISHED BY JOHN MURPHY & CO. 182 BALTIMORE STREET, 1875. pp. 238, 240)

Either with a Pope or without a Pope, the Holy See will still exist as a perpetual legal person until the last day of this world's existence. Consequently, either with a Pope or without a Pope, the Catholic Church will still exist as a perpetual legal person until the last day of this world's existence as well.

If God did not want bishops and priests to administer the Sacraments during the vacancy of the Holy See, He would have issued a special law. But God did not issue such a law. And that means that God wanted bishops and priests to administer the Sacraments always, even during the vacancy of the Holy See.

Canon Law says that for lawful administration of the Sacraments, bishops and priests should possess jurisdiction. But Canon Law does not say that bishops and priests don’t possess jurisdiction during the vacancy of the Holy See. According to Canon Law, the Church - a Perpetual Legal Person - supplies jurisdiction so that the laity may receive the Sacraments even in a situation where questions about the jurisdiction of the priest arise.

“The nature and purpose of the Church is the same as that for which Christ was sent into the world, viz.: the establishment of the Kingdom of God. This end and purpose is plainly supernatural or religious.” (A COMMENTARY ON THE NEW CODE OF CANON LAW, By THE REV. P. CHAS. AUGUSTINE, O.S.B., D.D. Professor of Canon Law, VOLUME II Clergy and Hierarchy (Can. 87, 99, 100, 101, 102) B. HERDER BOOK CO. 17 SOUTH BROADWAY, ST. Louis, Mo. AND 68, GREAT RUSSELL ST., LONDON, W. C. 1918, CUM PERMISSU SUPERIORUM, NIHIL OBSTAT Sti. Ludovici, die Sept. 7, 1918 F. G. Holweck, Censor Librorum. IMPRIMATUR Sti. Ludovici, die Sept. 8, 1918 +Joannes J. Glennon, Archiepiscopus, Sti. Ludovici. Printed in U. S. A.)

During the vacancy of the Holy See the nature and purpose of the Church is the same, unchangeable: The establishment of the Kingdom of God and this purpose is plainly supernatural.

During the vacancy of the Holy See, the Catholic Church continues to live and fulfill Her mission of saving souls regardless of how long the vacancy of the Holy See may lasts.

The statement: "If there is no Pope, the Holy Ghost has withdrawn from the Church, and the communication between God and His Church is terminated" is completely FALSE.

Now let me share with you some excellent comments on THE APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE by Rev. E. Sylvester Berry.

From these comments it is quite clear that at all times during the vacancy of the Holy See - even at the time of Antichrist - the Church of Christ fulfills the holy work of saving souls despite the terrible attacks from the gates of hell.

Most Rev. James J. Hartley, Bishop of Columbus - who gave Imprimatur to Fr. Berry’s study - wrote that the points and explanations Fr. Berry has placed before us are both interesting and instructive, and the author has tried in a simple scholarly way to help us view all mysteries with pleasure and understanding.

It is clear from Fr. Berry’s explanations that the Church of Christ – either with the Pope or during the interregnum - still has Faith and Prayer, the Sacraments, Bishops, Priests, Religious and Faithful.

Also, Fr. Berry explains that precisely during the interregnum (the vacancy of the Holy See) the wicked one shall be revealed in his intense anger against the Church.

It is logical to conclude, therefore, that if the wicked one shall be revealed in his intense anger against the Church during the interregnum that means that the Church still exists during the interregnum.

Also, Fr. Berry wrote that a careful reading of the Apocalypse shows clearly that Antichrist will appear long centuries before the Last Judgment and the end of the world, and the false prophet will probably set himself up in Rome as a “sort of anti-pope” during the vacancy of the Papal Throne.

Therefore, it is also logical to conclude that we are living at the time of Antichrist during the vacancy of the Papal See; and the Antichrist has his “church” and his false prophets (false popes).

Fr. Berry wrote that the Church deprived of her chief pastor (the Pope) must seek sanctuary in solitude there to be guided by God Himself during those trying days.

Also, Fr. Berry explains that in this life the fruit of the Tree of life (Apocalypse 22:2) is the Holy Eucharist and its leaves (the plural of leaf) the teachings of Christ and His Church.

It is logical to conclude here that the administration of the Sacraments is the perpetual, unchanged standard for Catholics based on the Divine Law of the New Testament, and Christ is guiding His Church during the vacancy of the Holy See and commanding His priests to dispense His Sacraments to the faithful and to teach them.

Some important events at the time of Antichrist according to Rev. E. Sylvester Berry:

  • Satan will first attempt to destroy the power of the Papacy;
  • Satan will seek his destruction at any cost;
  • The Papacy will be attacked by all the powers of hell;
  • In consequence the Church will suffer great trials and afflictions in securing a successor upon the throne of Peter;
  • The words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians may be a reference to the Papacy as the obstacle to the coming of Antichrist;
  • The powers of hell seek by all means to destroy the Pope elected in those days;
  • Scarcely has the newly elected Pope been enthroned when he is snatched away by martyrdom;
  • The "mystery of iniquity" gradually developing through the centuries, cannot be fully consummated while the power of the Papacy endures;
  • But now he that "withholdeth is taken out of the way";
  • During the interregnum "that wicked one shall be revealed" in his fury against the Church;
  • It is a matter of history that the most disastrous periods for the Church were times when the Papal throne was vacant, or when anti-popes contended with the legitimate head of the Church;
  • The Church deprived of her chief pastor, must seek sanctuary in solitude there to be guided by God Himself during those trying days;
  • God will preserve at least one nation to defend the Church in that hour when, humanly speaking, everything seems hopeless;
  • The beast arising from the earth is a false prophet - the prophet of Antichrist;
  • Antichrist being of Jewish extraction, as he probably will, the sea from which he arises signifies Judaism;
  • The prophet will probably set himself up in Rome as a sort of antipope during the vacancy of the papal throne;
  • Antichrist and his prophet will introduce ceremonies to imitate the Sacraments of the Church. In fact there will be a complete organization - a church of Satan set up in opposition to the Church of Christ;
  • Satan will assume the part of God the Father; Antichrist will be honored as Saviour, and his prophet will usurp the role of Pope. Their ceremonies will counterfeit the Sacraments and their works of magic will be heralded as miracles;
  • The seven angels represent the bishops and priests of the Church; and especially great saints raised up to battle against the powers of darkness;
  • Antichrist will appear long centuries before the last judgment and the end of the world. In fact his reign will be but the final attempt of Satan to prevent the universal reign of Christ in the world;
  • After the defeat of Antichrist the Gentile nations will return to the Church and the Jews will enter her fold. Then shall be fulfilled the words of Christ: "There shall be one fold and one shepherd" (St. John x, 16);
  • After the destruction of Rome in the days of Antichrist, it shall remain forever but a heap of ruins, and the haunt of filthy animals; "that great city shall be found no more at all." This fact taken in connection with the many prophecies concerning the future glory of Jerusalem, justifies the belief that it will become the city of the Popes and the capital of Christendom from the time of Antichrist until the consummation of the world;
  • Transfer of the Papacy from Rome to Jerusalem might be made by decree of a general council acting with the Pope, or by direct intervention of divine Providence;
  • In this life the fruit of the tree is the Holy Eucharist, and its leaves the teachings of Christ and His Church. In heaven the fruit is the glory of the Beatific Vision; and the leaves, the accidental glory of the saints;
  • The name of God written upon the foreheads of the saints is a mark of their adoption as children of God by Baptism and Confirmation.

Conclusion

Fr. Berry confirms this truth:

There is no Catholic Church without a Pope when he is alive, but there is no Catholic Church without a periodical vacancy of the Holy See as well.

It must be emphasized that commenting on the Apocalypse 22:1 Fr. Berry explains that in this life the fruit of the tree is the Holy Eucharist.

Also, commenting on the Apocalypse 22:4 Fr. Berry explains that the name of God written upon the foreheads of the saints, is a mark of their adoption as children of God by Baptism and Confirmation.

It is logical to conclude that God willed that there should ever be Bishops and Priests in His Church because only they have the right to administer the Holy Eucharist and Confirmation. This completely refutes the heresy of "home aloners" who say that there are no more Priests and Bishops in the Church.

To sum up, I can say the following:

  1. Either with a Pope or without a Pope, the Catholic Church at all times remains "the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 To Timothy 3:15).
  2. At all times the Church can be found in the Faith and Prayer, the Sacraments, Bishops, Priests, Religious and Faithful.
  3. We don’t lose hope that sooner or later - according to God's Will - a very worthy man will become a Pope, either at Rome or Jerusalem.

Fr. Valerii

Here the quotations from the book THE APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE by Rev. E. Sylvester Berry follow:

CHAPTER XII

"In the foregoing chapter St. John outlines the history of the Church from the coming of Antichrist until the end of the world in order to give a connected account of the two prophets Elias and Henoch, (or Moses) and the result of their labors."

"Satan will first attempt to destroy the power of the Papacy and bring about the downfall of the Church through heresies, schisms and persecutions that must surely follow. Failing in this he will then attack the Church from without. For this purpose he will raise up Antichrist and his prophet to lead the faithful into error and destroy those who remain steadfast." p. 120

2. And being with child, she cried travailing in birth and was in pain to be delivered.

"In this passage there is an evident allusion to some particular son of the Church whose power and influence shall be such that Satan will seek his destruction at any cost. This person can be none other than the Pope to be elected in those days. The Papacy will be attacked by all the powers of hell. In consequence the Church will suffer great trials and afflictions in securing a successor upon the throne of Peter.

The words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians may be a reference to the Papacy as the obstacle to the coming of Antichrist: "You know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed." (II Thessalonians ii, 6, 7)" p. 121-122

4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.

"The tail of the dragon represents the cunning hypocrisy with which he succeeds in deceiving a large number of people and pastors - a third part of the stars. Arianism led away many bishops, priests and peoples. The pretended Reformation of the sixteenth century claimed still larger numbers but these cannot be compared to the numbers seduced by Satan in the days of Antichrist.

The dragon stands before the woman ready to devour the child that is brought forth. In other words, the powers of hell seek by all means to destroy the Pope elected in those days." p. 123

5. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God and to his throne.

"The woman brings forth a son to rule the nations with a rod of iron. These are the identical words of prophecy uttered by the Psalmist concerning our Saviour Jesus Christ (Psalm ii, 9). They confirm our application of this vision to the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth to rule the nations in His stead and by His power.

It is now the hour for the powers of darkness. The new-born Son of the Church is taken "to God and to His throne." Scarcely has the newly elected Pope been enthroned when he is snatched away by martyrdom. The "mystery of iniquity" gradually developing through the centuries, cannot be fully consummated while the power of the Papacy endures, but now he that "withholdeth is taken out of the way." During the interregnum "that wicked one shall be revealed" in his fury against the Church.

It is a matter of history that the most disastrous periods for the Church were times when the Papal throne was vacant, or when anti-popes contended with the legitimate head of the Church. Thus also shall it be in those evil days to come." p. 123-124

6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days.

"The Church deprived of her chief pastor must seek sanctuary in solitude there to be guided by God Himself during those trying days. This place of refuge prepared for the Church is probably some nation, or nations, that remain faithful to her. In those days the Church shall also find refuge and consolation in faithful souls, especially in the seclusion of the religious life." p. 124

7. And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.

"St. Michael, the guardian angel of the Church, shall come with his hosts to defend her against the on- slaughts of Satan and his minions. The followers of St. Michael are the angelic hosts of heaven and all faithful bishops and priests of the Church. The minions of Satan are the fallen angels with the leaders of heresy, schism, and persecution." p. 124-125

14. And there was given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert unto her place, where she is nourished for a time and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

"In this new danger the Church shall receive the wings of an eagle to defend her and carry her to the place of refuge which God has prepared (See above, v. 6). The wings are probably two armies sent in defense of the Church by some nation that remains faithful. This interpretation seems justified by verse 16.

In a spiritual sense the two wings are faith and prayer. In the faith and prayer of her children, and especially in the contemplative life of religious orders the Church shall find a refuge of consolation which Satan cannot violate. The desolation of those three and one-half years may be compared to that of the three days following our Lord's death on the Cross. The faith and prayers of Mary, of the holy women, and of the Apostles afforded the only consolation in those days of anguish." p. 127-128

15. And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman, water as it were a river; that he might cause her to be carried away by the river.

16. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river, which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

"The dragon now seeks to overwhelm the Church with a veritable flood of tribulations, but some faithful nation, or nations, (the earth) comes to her rescue. This verse proves that the great revolt of nations mentioned by St. Paul (II Thessalonians ii, 3) will not be universal. God will preserve at least one nation to defend the Church in that hour when, humanly speaking, everything seems hopeless." p. 128

CHAPTER XIII

11. And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns, like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon.

"The beast arising from the earth is a false prophet - the prophet of Antichrist (See below, xvi, 13; xix, 20). Our divine Saviour has a representative on earth in the person of the Pope upon whom He has conferred full powers to teach and govern. Likewise Antichrist will have his representative in the false prophet who will be endowed with the plenitude of satanic powers to deceive the nations.

Antichrist being of Jewish extraction, as he probably will, the sea from which he arises signifies Judaism. Then the earth whence comes the second beast is a symbol of the Gentile nations in revolt against the Church. The two horns denote a twofold authority - spiritual and temporal. As indicated by the resemblance to a lamb, the prophet will probably set himself up in Rome as a sort of antipope during the vacancy of the papal throne mentioned above (See above, page 126). But the elect will not allow themselves to be deceived; they will recall the words of our Lord: "Then if any man shall say to you: Lo here is Christ, or there, do not believe him" (St. Matthew xxiv, 23)." p. 135

16. And he shall make all, both little and great, rich and poor, freemen and bondmen, to have a character in their right hand, or on their foreheads.

"The followers of Antichrist will be marked with a character in imitation of the sign that St. John saw upon the foreheads of the servants of God. This indicates that Antichrist and his prophet will introduce ceremonies to imitate the Sacraments of the Church. In fact there will be a complete organization - a church of Satan set up in opposition to the Church of Christ. Satan will assume the part of God the Father; Antichrist will be honored as Saviour, and his prophet will usurp the role of Pope. Their ceremonies will counterfeit the Sacraments and their works of magic be heralded as miracles. A similar project was attempted in the fourth century when Julian the Apostate counterfeited Catholic worship with pagan ceremonies in honor of Mithras and Cybele. He established a priesthood and instituted ceremonies in imitation of Baptism and Confirmation." p. 138

CHAPTER XV

1. And I saw another sign in heaven, great and wonderful: seven angels having the seven last plagues. For in them is filled up the wrath of God.

"During the great conflict with Antichrist, the Church shall have power to send plagues upon his empire such as those which Moses brought down upon the Egyptians (Exodus viii-xii). The seven angels represent the bishops and priests of the Church; and especially great saints raised up to battle against the powers of darkness. The nature of these plagues indicates that they will accompany the preaching of Elias and his companion." p. 149

CHAPTER XX

"A careful reading of the Apocalypse shows clearly that Antichrist will appear long centuries before the last judgment and the end of the world. In fact his reign will be but the final attempt of Satan to prevent the universal reign of Christ in the world. Since the day of Pentecost the Church has been engaged in perpetual warfare. Judaism was her first enemy; then followed Arianism, Mohammedanism, the Greek Schism, the Reformation, and secret societies fostering atheism and rationalism. Today she is also battling against indifferentism and a recrudescence of paganism. The reign of Antichrist shall be the final conflict in this prolonged struggle with the powers of darkness.

After the defeat of Antichrist the Gentile nations will return to the Church and the Jews will enter her fold. Then shall be fulfilled the words of Christ: "There shall be one fold and one shepherd" (St. John x, 16). Unfortunately sin and evil will not have entirely disappeared, the good and the bad will still be mingled in the Church, although the good shall predominate." p.189-190

"These prophecies will not be fulfilled before the time of Antichrist, since the Apocalypse clearly shows that he will come into a world harassed by paganism, apostasy, schism, and heresy (Apocalypse ix, 20, 21). The Jews still unconverted, will accept him as Messias and assist in his warfare against the Church. Only after the defeat of Antichrist and the return of the Gentile nations to the Faith, will the Jews accept Christ as the true Messias. Then shall begin the universal reign of Christ over all peoples, and tribes, and tongues.

After the destruction of Rome in the days of Antichrist, it shall remain forever but a heap of ruins, and the haunt of filthy animals; "that great city shall be found no more at all." This fact taken in connection with the many prophecies concerning the future glory of Jerusalem, justifies the belief that it will become the city of the Popes and the capital of Christendom from the time of Antichrist until the consummation of the world. This, we believe, is not opposed to the teaching of the Church. Many theologians hold that the Papacy is connected with the bishopric of Rome by divine institution; yet this cannot be an article of Faith because it is contained neither in Scripture nor in tradition. It is of faith that the successor of St. Peter is head of the Church, and in the present order of things it is also of faith that the bishop of Rome is the successor of St. Peter.

Transfer of the Papacy from Rome to Jerusalem might be made by decree of a general council acting with the Pope, or by direct intervention of divine Providence. The prophets of old foretell the future glory of Jerusalem when it shall become again the Holy City and the spiritual capital of the world whence the waters of salvation flow out to all peoples. It shall also become the capital of a Jewish nation gathered about it once more." p. 192-193

CHAPTER XXII

2. In the midst of the street thereof, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruits every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

"The tree of life stands in the midst of the city on either bank of the river at the disposal of all and to all it gives eternal life. Its twelve fruits ripening every month symbolize the happiness of heaven which shall be without interruption for all eternity. In this life the fruit of the tree is the Holy Eucharist, and its leaves the teachings of Christ and His Church. In heaven the fruit is the glory of the Beatific Vision; and the leaves, the accidental glory of the saints." p. 217

3 And there shall be no curse anymore; but the throne of God and of the Larnb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him.

4 And they shall see his face: and his name shall be on their foreheads.

5. And night shall be no more: and they shall not need the light of the lamp, nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall enlighten them, and they shall reign forever and ever.


Sin shall be no more, and the saints shall serve and glorify God whom they behold face to face. "We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known" (I Corinth, xiii, 12). The name of God written upon the foreheads of the saints is a mark of their adoption as children of God by Baptism and Confirmation. "Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God" (I John iii, 1)." p. 217

Reference:

THE APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN BY REV. E. SYLVESTER BERRY, FIRST EDITION COLUMBUS, OHIO: JOHN W. WINTERICH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SUPPLY HOUSE, 59 EAST MAIN STREET, 1921, NIHIL OBSTAT: JOSEPH MOLITOR, D. D., Censor Deputatus, IMPRIMATUR: +JAMES J. HARTLEY, Bishop of Columbus, June 15, 1921.

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