“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.]
“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
Special Note: If you would like to follow along on this pilgrimage to Garabandal, you can by joining our new Locals community for exclusive content including pilgrimage updates, live streams, live Q&A sessions and Synod coverage. Help us to reach 1,000 members by October 1st.
We expect this platform to be a place for the efficient and secure exchange of news and opinion in the event of important events (for example, a Synod, or a papal conclave in Rome); this is why we are setting up this platform now.
If you wish to become a member, you will need to create a free account on Locals in order to apply the discounted subscription rate. You can sign up for a free Locals account here.
Then, to join our Urbi et Orbi Community, use this link or enter the code word LETTERS at this link.
The default of $8.00 a month is shown when you first arrive at the sign-up, but you should automatically get the $5.00 per month for 3 months promotional rate as soon as you click, as long as you are logged in.
If you have difficulties, please send us an email at [email protected].
Subscribe as well — for free! — to our YouTube Channel at this link.
After you subscribe, click the bell on the right to turn on notifications. This will ensure you do not miss any upcoming public livestreams, breaking news, and exclusive content.
P.S. Please consider supporting this writing. Thank you. (link) —RM