The Three Popes and the End of Times in Garabandal

One of the topics that has set people talking about Garabandal is the so-called prophecy of the three popes, linked to the proclamation of an imminent end of time. It is such a delicate topic that it can be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Therefore, we are going to reflect using the information we have, taking care not to interpret what is not up to us to decide but rather up to the Church.

It was June 3, 1963. The news of Pope John XXIII’s death had just reached Garabandal and Conchita made her way to the church with her mother to pray for the Pontiff’s eternal repose. On their way, Conchita hears the unmistakable voice of Our Blessed Mother in her saying, “After this pope, there are only three left. Then [it will be] the end of times.” Soon after, the Virgin Mary specifies that even though she says that only three are left, there will be another that will “govern the Church for a very short time,” which is why She does not include him on the list. There are witnesses that affirm hearing Conchita make this clarification during that very month: June 1963. This means that, in one sentence Our Blessed Mother prophesied two things:

1. There are only three popes left. Then it will be the end of times.
2. To assure us that her first affirmation is true, Our Blessed Mother provides a sign: there will actually be one more pope, but his pontificate will be so brief that I do not count him.

We all know who that pope is whose pontificate was so ephemeral that it did not come to be a great influence on the Church’s destiny: John Paul I, pope from August 26, 1978 until his death on September 28, 1978. Pope Luciani’s 33 day-long pontificate corresponded perfectly to this exceptional prediction, impossible to predict in 1963. The three popes from Our Lady’s prophecy are therefore Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. After Pope Francis’ arrival, the start of the “end of times” will have begun.

But what does this really mean? I insist on the fact that we must be very prudent and humble when we try to explain it, like Sister Lucia at Fatima when the Third Secret of Fatima was published in 2000. Fr. José Luis Saavedra explains that, before the Holy See published an interpretation carried out by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, “he [Sodano] showed it to Sister Lucia in order to know her opinion and find out if she shared the same interpretation. Sister Lucia,” explains Cardinal Ratzinger, “responded that ‘the vision was given to her, not its interpretation. The interpretation is not determined by the visionary but by the Church.’”

A visionary cannot risk interpreting the message received. His or her duty is to pass them to the Church to be studied and interpreted legitimately. In Garabandal, this is also why Conchita left the judgment of the matter completely in the Church’s hands. We ought to do the same thing and not risk thinking up our own interpretation that might harm our faith or that of others. The comprehension of a message coming from a private revelation normally needs several years to develop. Sometimes it even needs time to see the foretold events fulfilled. But prophecy in the history of salvation cannot be confused with divination, because it is not a mere foretelling future events but a call to conversion. Prophecy reveals God’s will for the present rather than for the future. It is a call to convert today, without waiting for the prophesied events, whose mission is solely a sign and confirmation of God’s intervention in history.

Our Blessed Mother’s words are, “After this pope, there are only three left. Then [it will be] the end of times.” The adverb “then,” as Fr. José Luis Saavedra rightly points out in his book Garabandal: Message of Hope, does not mean “immediately.” Nor does “the end of times” mean “the end of the world,” as Conchita has repeated on several occasions. “There are only three left” does not mean that there will be no more popes, or that the Church or human race will disappear. We have to get all those heavy black clouds out of our head and imagination. “There are only three left. Then [it will be] the end of time” simply means that there will only be three popes before this mysterious “end of times” begins. Then there will continue to be popes and the Church and the world will continue to exist. We will have, however, entered into a new period in the Church’s history.

Our Blessed Mother did not say more than what She said in Garabandal and we cannot venture to add another word. Nevertheless, we cannot deny that we are living a very transcendent moment in the history of the Church. As I write these lines—July 2019—I am reading a commentary by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of German Bishops' Conference, in which he declares that we are not in an epoch of change but “in a change of epoch.” He comes to affirm: “Whoever does not see it must adapt his or her intellect.” Surely, Cardinal Marx did not intend it, but his observation is very similar to that proclamation of the “end of times.” This end times of goes hand in hand with a great test for and purification in the Church. This is not interpreting; it is evidence that we confirm daily. The Church is currently being greatly tested, persecuted and purified. But this does not mean that the Church is coming to an end, quite the opposite, if we are faithful and respond to Our Blessed Mother’s calls this entire situation will end in a providential moment of grace.

In fact, Fr. José Luis Saavedra puts the announcement of the “end of times” with Fatima’s luminous prophecy: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” “Finally” is an adverb used to express emphatically the end of a pending situation. In the present case, it seems to indicate the conclusion of a period of difficulty preceding the Immaculate Heart of Mary’s triumph. For Santiago Lanús—expert in modern Marian apparitions—“the end of times,” which would begin with Garabandal’s Warning, “will last until the triumph of the Immaculate Heart announced in Fatima.” That “end of times” will be marked by a sorrowful period of interior trials and exterior persecution, in which the Church, like the girls announced in Garabandal, will look as if it is at the point of disappearing. We are already suffering some of this time of trial, but we do not give in to the evil temptation to despair or go down the path of morbidity because all the events we speak of come from the depths of the Lord’s merciful Heart. We should not fear future events but place ourselves trustfully in Our Heavenly Mother’s hands. Everything is thought out carefully for our own good and to lead us to a deep conversion.

Still, I insist that Church authority must interpret announcements like the ones in Garabandal. These demand, for their part, a particular prudence and study. Until the Church makes a public and definitive declaration on Garabandal, let us work on our conversion peacefully and with a heart full of gratitude toward Our Blessed Mother who loves us and so eagerly seeks our salvation.

Source: SAAVEDRA, J.L., Garabandal: Message of Hope. Santander, 2015.