1. Is the Antichrist in the world today? No.
The current time period is not the time of the Antichrist, nor the time describing the events of his reign. That period of time is in the distant future. No person alive today, of any age or role in society, is the Antichrist.
The Bible and the Saints have described a long series of events prior to the reign of the Antichrist. Those events have no occurred. They include the rise and fall of multiple kingdoms (e.g. Daniel 7), and must occupy at least a few hundred years beyond the present time. Also, the Antichrist has never been described as being the Pope. The Antichrist is described as a powerful political and military leader, who leads literal armies in warfare, and as someone in charge of almost the whole world, politically and militarily.
2. Is Pope Francis or any other Pope the Antichrist? No.
Neither the Antichrist, nor the false prophet of the Antichrist (Rev 13) can be the Pope. Christ promised that the gates of Hell would never prevail over the Church. Christ also made Peter and his successors the visible head of the Church, the rock on which the Church is founded, and the Vicar of Christ. And in Luke 22:32, Christ prayed and promised that the faith of Peter and his successors would never fail. This verse has always been interpreted by the Church as a special charism to each Pope of “truth and never-failing faith” as Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, ch. 4, n.7) phrased it. See this list of over 300 teachings from Popes, Councils, and Saints on the charisms given to each Pope. These teachings of Christ in the Gospels (Mt 16:18; Lk 22:32) and of the Church throughout the centuries guarantee that no Pope can ever be the Antichrist, or the false prophet.
3. Did Pope emeritus Benedict XVI hint that Pope Francis was the Antichrist? No.
A politician from Slovakia, Vladimir Palko, claims that in a private letter to him in 2015, Pope emeritus Benedict said the power of the Antichrist was increasing in the world. He did not make this claim until after Benedict died.
First, the wording claimed in no way references or even hints at these words applying to Pope Francis. Second, Benedict certainly acknowledged that Pope Francis was the true successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, so Benedict could not possibly think that Francis was also the Antichrist or associated with the Antichrist.
Third, unfortunately, after the deaths of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Pell, many persons have come forward to make claims about their supposed positions on various issues. Pell is claimed by some to be the author of an anonymous document; this claim was only made after Pell died and could not reply. The same is true for many claims using the name of Pope Benedict to undermine the authority of Pope Francis. Most of these claims were made only after Benedict died and could not refute the accusation.
4. Did lightning strike the Vatican on the day of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation? Yes.
But how weak does your faith have to be to doubt or reject the current Pope because of a weather event? Or if the next Pope were more to the liking of the conservative critics of the papacy, would they say the same regarding that lightning strike and a Pope they prefer?
The dogmas of the indefectibility of the Church and of the never-failing faith of the Pope mean that the Pope and the body of Bishops with him can never lead the faithful away from the path of salvation, even when they are deciding matters without infallibility. A weather event does not change the promise of Christ about His Church. Never did the Bible or the Saints or the Church ever teach that a lightning strike would indicate the Pope is not to be trusted as the Vicar of Christ.
5. Are we living in the time of the Antichrist? No.
A common opinion in Catholic end times theology is that the End Times (or “tribulation”) is divided into two parts: the lesser tribulation and the greater tribulation. These two parts are said to be separated by a period of time, which may be quite lengthy. The End Times does not occur over a short period of time, such as seven years or three and one half years, as is often claimed. Then the greater tribulation (the second part of the End Times) is the time of the worst sufferings and of the Antichrist. Since neither part of the End Times has yet occurred (as of this writing), the time of the greater tribulation and of the Antichrist is in the distant future, probably hundreds of years from now.
When the End Times begins, that period will be the lesser tribulation, a time of increased sufferings for the Church and the world, but without the more extreme sufferings of the much later time of the Antichrist.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.