Above, is the cover of a book by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson entitled Lord of the World.

    Below, is a newer edition of the same book.

    Pope Francis on September 23 in a press conference returning from Marseilles, France, to Rome asked that all of us “please” read this book…

    Why? See below…

    Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 675

    Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson‘s Lord of the World is a novel about the Antichrist, who will tempt Christians to apostasy before Christ’s Second Coming. It describes the final battle in the supernatural war for souls that has been fought continually both in heaven and on earth from the time of the Fall and will conclude with the general judgment; thereupon will follow the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. As we will see, before creating his fictional account, Msgr. Benson carefully explored the various passages on the endtimes included in Scripture and the teachings of the Church Fathers as background for this tale of the Antichrist. The oft-cited definition of a classic is ‘a book that remains in print.’ Although I cannot vouch that Lord of the World has never been out of print, it most certainly has been reprinted again and again since first being published in 1904. I myself first read it in the 1960s and have revisited it several times since. Like all fictional classics, it offers new layers of meaning on each rereading, revealing ever more clearly the author’s message to his readers.” — from a reflection on Lord of the World by the late Fr. John McCloskey, a priest of Opus Dei who labored with great effect in Washington D.C. to convert many to the Catholic faith, and who died on February 23 this year at the age of 69 (link and link and link)

    I spoke clearly, when he [French President Emanuel Macron] came to the Vatican [last year on October 24, 2022, link], and I spoke my opinion clearly: life is not to be played with, neither at the beginning nor at the end. We cannot play around. This is my opinion: to protect life, you know? Because then we wind up with a policy of ‘no pain,’ of a humanistic euthanasia. On this point, I want to cite a book again. Please read it. It’s from 1907. [Francis actually says “1903” but the transcription has been corrected to reflect the fact that the book was published in 1907.] It’s a novel called Lord of the World, written by [Msgr. Robert Hugh] Benson. It’s an apocalyptic novel that shows how things will be in the end. All differences are taken away, including all pain. Euthanasia is one of these things – a gentle death, selection before birth. It shows us how this man had foreseen some of the current conflicts. Today we should be careful with ideological colonizations that ruin human life and go against human life.” —Pope Francis, to the Vatican press corps, on the papal plane returning from Marseilles, France, to Rome on Saturday evening September 23, four days ago. Francis, like Pope Benedict before him, has recommended reading Lord of the World on a number of occasions… (see link)

    Letter #127, Monday, September 25: Pope Francis once again urges all of us to read “Lord of the World” by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (1907)

     In striking words, Pope Francis has once again recommended to everyone to read a certain, relatively little-known, century-old book: Lord of the World, published in 1907 by a convert from the Anglican Church, Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson.     

    In making this recommendation, a recommendation he has made before, Francis made this book arguably the one book he has recommended more often than any other during his pontificate.

    We might say that this is for Francis his “#1 book” which he recommends we all read. (Though he has recommended a number of other books, including The Lord by Romano Guardini, and Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; see this list.)

    (Note: Partly for this reason — to make Benson’s book available to all who are interested but may not be able to obtain a copy — we have for several years been publishing monthly excerpts from Lord of the World in Inside the Vatican magazine. You may subscribe to the magazine at this link. Here is a link to a description of the book and its author; here a link to download the entire text; and here a link to purchase the book in a new edition.)

    Francis made his recommendation on the papal airplane flying back from Marseille, France, to Rome on the evening of Saturday, September 23, four days ago now, during a brief papal press conference — there were only three questions.

    (Here is a link to the agenda for the Marseille trip, which began Friday afternoon September 22 and ended Saturday evening September 23; and here a link to the full text of the interview, which is also published in full here below.)

    Here is what happened.

    Pope on plane from Marseille

    Pope Francis: “You cannot play with life!”

    “You don’t play with life, neither at the beginning nor at the end. It is not played with!” Pope Francis told journalists September 23, as he returned from a two-day trip to Marseille, in southern France, to speak at a meeting of young people and bishops called Mediterranean Encounter.

    One reporter questioned Francis about meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron and the issue of the French government preparing to pass a liberal “end of life” law that will expand euthanasia. Francis took the opportunity to condemn the attitude toward the elderly which says: “They are old, so are of no use.”

    In this context, he cited the dystopian 1907 novel by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World — a book which we have been serializing in the pages of Inside the Vatican magazine for several years.

    In the novel, Francis said, “All differences are taken away, including all pain. Euthanasia is one of these things – a gentle death, selection before birth… Today we should be careful with ideological colonizations that ruin human life and go against human life.”


    It was not the first time Francis has drawn our attention to Lord of the World.

    In a November 18, 2013 sermon in Domus Santa Marta, Francis noted that the book presciently depicts “the spirit of the world which leads to apostasy, almost as if it were a prophecy.” (link)

    In early 2015, on January 19, flying to the Philippines, Pope Francis said that “the writer [Benson] had seen this drama of ideological colonization.” (link)

    Then, in an interview with Elizabeth Piqué published on March 10 this year, Pope Francis remarked that “non-binary” gender options appearing on government forms reminded him of Benson’s “futuristic” world, “in which differences are disappearing and everything is the same, everything is uniform, a single leader of the whole world.” (link)

    What is it about this book, Lord of the World, that Francis finds so compelling?

    Francis tells us in this latest press conference interview from four days ago:

    It’s an apocalyptic novel that shows how things will be in the end. [Note: So Francis is clear that the book deals with “the end,” that is, evidently, with the end of time.]

    Francis continues:

    “All differences are taken away… [Note: Francis is here referring to the sexual differences between men and women, which some are attempting to “take away”; Francis here is offering his critique of the errors of the transgender ideology, which he has repeatedly called an “ideological colonization.”]

    “…including all pain. Euthanasia is one of these things – a gentle death, selection before birth. [Note: Francis is here referring to the arguments being made in favor of euthanasia and “mercy killings” in many countries, including the killing of infants in the womb who may have some genetic impairment or defect, that theirs will be a “gentle death”; the elimination of unborn children with genetic defects what he means by “selection before birth.”]

    “…It shows us how this man had foreseen some of the current conflicts. [Note: Here Francis is crediting Monsignor Benson with having “foreseen” some of the issues we face today; he is crediting him with a type of authentic prophetic vision.]

    Today we should be careful with ideological colonizations that ruin human life and go against human life.” [Note: Here Francis gives his conclusion: that the things Benson foresaw, and wrote about in Lord of the World, and are now coming to pass in our own society, in fact “ruin human life,” “go against human life,” that is, lead to human death.]

    In other words, Francis finds in this book (as did Pope Benedict before him — when still Cardinal Ratzinger, he cited Benson in a 1992 speech he gave at the Catholic University in Milan, link) a warning about the grave dangers facing our time, including the grave danger of a “humanistic” apostasy from the faith which to the “ruin” of human life.


    A Book about the Antichrist

    According to Monsignor Benson’s biographer Fr. Cyril Martindale, the idea of a novel about the Antichrist was first suggested to Fr. Benson by his friend and literary mentor Frederick Rolfe in December 1905. It was Rolfe who also introduced Mgr. Benson to the writings of the French Utopian Socialist Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon.

    According to Fr. Martindale, as Benson read Saint-Simon’s writings, “A vision of a dechristianised civilisation, sprung from the wrecking of the old régime, arose before him and he listened to Mr. Rolfe’s suggestion that he should write a book on Antichrist.”

    Writing during the pontificate of Pope Pius X and prior to the First World War, Monsignor Benson accurately predicted interstate highways, weapons of mass destruction, the use of aircraft to drop bombs on both military and civilian targets, and passenger air travel in advanced Zeppelins called “Volors.” Writing in 1916, Fr. Martindale compared Mgr. Benson’s ideas for future technology with those of legendary French science fiction novelist Jules Verne.

    Thus, Pope Francis has urged us yet again to read this classic work on the coming of the Antichrist, before the world’s end. —RM


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    The complete text of the Pope’s September 23 press conference

    Here follows the Vatican’s working English transcription of the September 23 press conference (link).

    (I note one thing: the Pope in this brief interview also refers here to my own old friend, Miriam Woldu, 34, who was a receptionist at the Domus Santa Marta, and whom I knew well. The Pope says that she was “Ethiopian” but in fact she was Eritrean, that is, born in Italy of Eritrean parents. She died in early 2016 under circumstances which have never been fully explained. (link, link) —RM)

    Matteo Bruni – Director of the Holy See Press Office: Good evening, Your Holiness, good evening everyone. Thank you for taking this time on our return flight. It was a special journey in which you were also able to feel, as His Eminence said, all the affection of the French people who came to pray with you. But I think there are still a few questions or issues that the journalists would like to ask you. Perhaps you would like to say a few words to us.

    Pope Francis: Good evening and thank you very much for your work. Before I forget I want to say two things. Today I think it is the final flight of Roberto Bellino [Sound Engineer with the Dicastery for Communication], because he is retiring (applause). Thank you, thank you, thank you! The second thing is that today is Rino’s birthday, the ineffable Rino [Anastasio, ITA Airways coordinator of papal journeys] (applause). Now you may ask your questions.

    Raphaële Schapira (France TV): Your Holiness, good evening. You began your pontificate in Lampedusa, denouncing indifference. Ten years later you are asking Europe to show solidarity. You have been repeating the same message for ten years. Does that mean you have failed?

    Pope Francis: I would say no. I would say that growth has been slow. Today there is awareness of the migration problem. There is consciousness. And also, there is consciousness of how it has reached a point … like a hot potato that you don’t know how to handle.

    Angela Merkel once said that it is solved by going to Africa and solving it in Africa, by raising the level of African peoples. But there have been cases that are bad. Very bad cases, where migrants, like in ping pong, have been sent back. And it is known that many times they end up in lagers; they end up worse than before.

    It followed the life of a boy, Mahmoud, who was trying to get out… and in the end he hanged himself. He didn’t make it because he couldn’t stand this torture. I told you to read that book “Brother” – “Hermanito”. The people who come are first sold. Then they take away their money. Then they make them call their family on the phone to send more money. But they are poor people. It’s a terrible life.

    I heard one who at night, when boarding a boat, saw a vessel so plain, with no security he did not want to board. And, boom boom. End of story. It is the reign of terror. They suffer not only because they need to get out, but because it is the reign of terror there. They are slaves. And we cannot – without seeing things – send them back like a ping pong ball. No.

    That is why I reiterate that in principle migrants must be welcomed, accompanied, promoted and integrated. If you cannot integrate him in your country, accompany and integrate them in other countries, but don’t leave them in the hands of these cruel human-traffickers.

    The issue with migrants is this: that we send them back and they fall into the hands of these wretches who do so much evil. They sell them; they exploit them. People try to flee. There are some groups of people who dedicate themselves to rescuing people with boats. I invited one of them, the head of “Mediterranea Saving Humans” to the Synod. They tell you terrible stories.

    On my first trip, you recalled, I went to Lampedusa. Things have got better. They really have. There is more awareness. Back then we didn’t know. Back then they didn’t tell us the truth. I remember there was a receptionist in Santa Marta, an Ethiopian, daughter of Ethiopians. She spoke the language, and was following my journey on the TV. She saw there was someone who explained, a poor Ethiopian, who explained torture and these things. And the translator – this lady told me – he didn’t say everything; he sweetened the situation. It is difficult to trust. So much drama.

    That day I was there. A doctor told me: “look at that woman. She walked among the corpses seeking a face because she was looking for her daughter. She didn’t find her.” These dramas…it is good for us to take them in hand. It will make us more human and therefore also more divine. It is a call. I wish it were like a cry. Let us be attentive. Let’s do something.

    Awareness has changed. It really has. Today there is more consciousness. Not because I spoke out, but because people have become aware of the problem. So many are talking about it. It was my first trip.

    I want to say one more thing. I didn’t even know where Lampedusa was, but I heard the stories: I read something, and in prayer I heard “you must go” As if the Lord was sending me there, on my first journey.

    Clément Melki – Agence France-Presse (AFP): This morning you met with Emmanuel Macron after expressing your disagreement to euthanasia. The French government is preparing to pass a controversial end-of-life law.

    Could you kindly tell us what you told the French president about this and whether you think you can change his mind.

    Pope Francis: We did not speak on this issue today, but we talked about it on the other visit when we met. I spoke clearly, when he came to the Vatican, and I spoke my opinion clearly: life is not to be played with, neither at the beginning nor at the end. We cannot play around. This is my opinion: to protect life, you know? Because then we wind up with a policy of “no pain”, of a humanistic euthanasia.

    On this point, I want to cite a book again. Please read it. It’s from 1907. It’s a novel called Lord of the World, written by [Msgr. Robert Hugh] Benson. It’s an apocalyptic novel that shows how things will be in the end. All differences are taken away, including all pain. Euthanasia is one of these things – a gentle death, selection before birth. It shows us how this man had foreseen some of the current conflicts.

    Today we should be careful with ideological colonizations that ruin human life and go against human life.

    Today, for example, the lives of grandparents are erased, and when human wealth comes into play in the dialogue with grandchildren, they are erased. ‘They are old so are of no use.’ We cannot play with life.

    This time I did not talk to the president [about this topic], but last time I did. When he came, I gave him my opinion that life is not something to be played with. Whether it’s the law of not letting the baby grow in the mother’s womb or the law of euthanasia in disease or old age, I’m not saying it’s an issue of faith. It’s a human issue, a human issue. There exists an ‘ugly compassion’. Science has come to turn some painful diseases into less painful events, accompanying them with many medicines. But life must not be played with.

    Javier Martínez-Brocal – ABC: Holy Father, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, for this very intense and dense trip. Up to the last you spoke about Ukraine and Cardinal Zuppi has just arrived in Beijing. Is there any progress in this mission? At least on the humanitarian issue of the return of the children? Then a somewhat harsh question: how do you personally experience the fact that this mission has not managed to obtain any concrete results so far. In an audience you spoke of frustration. Do you feel frustration? Thank you.

    Pope Francis: That is true, some frustration is felt, because the Secretariat of State is doing everything to help this, and even the “Zuppi mission” has gone there. There is something with the children that is going well, but this war makes me think that it is also somewhat affected not only by the Russian/Ukrainian problem, but also by the selling of arms, the arms trade.

    The Economist said a few months ago that today the investments that provide the most income are arms factories, [which are] certainly factories of death!

    The Ukrainian people is a martyred people; they have a very martyred history, a history that makes them suffer. It is not the first time: at the time of Stalin, they suffered a lot, a lot; they are a martyred people. But we must not toy with the martyrdom of this people; we have to help them to resolve things in most realistic possible way.

    In wars, what is realistic is what is possible, not having illusions: as if tomorrow the two leaders at war would go out to eat together. But as far as possible, where we reach the point of doing what is possible. Now I have seen that some countries are turning back, that they are not giving arms, and are starting a process where the martyr will certainly be the Ukrainian people. And that is a bad thing!

    You have changed the subject, which is why I would like to go back to the first subject, the Journey. Marseille is a civilisation of many cultures, many cultures, it is a port of migrants.

    At one time there were migrants to Cayenne, those condemned to prison left from there — the archbishop [of Marseille –ed.] gave me Manon Lescaut to remind me of that history. But Marseille is a culture of encounter!

    Yesterday in the meeting with representatives of various confessions – they coexist: Muslims, Jews, Christians, but there is coexistence, it is a culture of assistance; Marseille is a creative mosaic; it is this culture of creativity. A port that is a message in Europe: Marseille is welcoming. It welcomes and creates a synthesis without denying the identity of peoples. We have to rethink this issue for the other parts: the capacity to welcome.

    Returning to migrants, there are five countries that suffer due to so many migrants, but in some of these countries, there are empty towns. I think of a concrete case I know of, there is a town where there are fewer 20 elderly people and no more. Please let these towns make the effort to integrate.

    We need labor; Europe has need of it. Well conducted migration is a richness; it is a richness. Let us consider this migration policy so that it is more fruitful and because it helps us so much.

    Now comes the dinner party for Rino and Roberto’s farewell. Let’s stop here; thank you very much for your work and your questions.

    (This is a working translation and transcription. Words and expressions in parenthesis are provided for clarity.)

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