Pope opens a personal Twitter account
December 2nd, 2012
02:11 PM ET

Pope opens a personal Twitter account

By Eric Marrapodi and Ben Wedeman, CNN

[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

[twitter-follow screen_name='bencnn']

(CNN) - The Vatican revealed the new personal Twitter account for Pope Benedict XVI, @Pontifex, on Monday, meaning the leader of the global Catholic Church will officially join millions of people around the globe on the social media site.

The pope will answer a question about faith in his first tweet, slated for Wednesday, December 12, Vatican officials said. They said that anyone could send in a question via the hashtag #askpontifex or #B16. The Vatican said the initial tweets from the pope will come on Wednesdays in conjunction with his general audiences in Rome, but that the 140-character missals may become more frequent.

The formal announcement came in a press conference Monday morning at the Vatican with Catholic and Twitter officials.

"The Pope's presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena,” the church said in a written statement to reporters. The pope’s account on Twitter, the statement said, “can be seen as the 'tip of the iceberg' that is the Church's presence in the world of new media.”

A Vatican official told CNN the pope will be composing the tweets for the new account himself. For the first tweet from the account, the pope will also press the button to send the tweet himself, but after that others will send the tweets on his behalf.

In June 2011 the pope sent his first tweet from the Twitter account for the Vatican news site, @news_va_en, to launch the new site http://www.news.va. He wrote, “Dear friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”

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That signature had led some to guess that @BenedictusPPXVI would be the account name for the 85-year-old pope's personal account, although @Pope would have been fitting as well. (Benedictus PP XVI is the pontiff's signature in Latin, with the "PP" standing for papa, the Latin word for pope.)

With @Pontifex, which means "bridge builder" in Latin, the pope chose a handle with another name for the office he holds.

The details on the long-expected event were revealed at the press conference featuring Vatican officials, including spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi and Greg Burke, media adviser to the Secretariat of State, who were joined by Claire Díaz-Ortiz, who heads social innovation at Twitter. Burke is a relatively new addition to the Vatican staff, having been recruited away from the Fox News Channel, where he was Rome correspondent. Díaz-Ortiz has been influential in getting religious leaders to join the social networking site.

Other religious leaders have found great success with Twitter. The 140-character limit for tweets allows for short messages, perfect for small verses of scripture or inspiration.

The Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama), Rick Warren (@RickWarren), Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen), and scores of other religious leaders utilize the site to spread their messages.

A Twitter spokeswoman said that religious leaders “punch above their weight” on the social networking site.

“An average religious leader has a rate of about 1 RT for every 500 followers, while a musician on Twitter would get one RT for every 30,000 followers,” said spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz, referring to retweets.

“We see a very high level of engagement with religious and spiritual content: followers respond to these topics with replies, retweets, and clicks on links much more often than they do other subjects,” she added.

While Benedict is the first Catholic pope to take to Twitter, he isn’t the first twitterized pope. That honor goes to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the 118th pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt. But Pope Tawadros has around 6,300 Twitter followers; Benedict has tens of thousands on his first day out.

John Paul II, who preceded Benedict, was the first pontiff to use the Internet, and the 20th century saw a string of other milestones for popes using technology to reach the masses. Pope Pius XI made the first papal radio broadcast in 1931. His successor, Pope Piux XII made the first papal television appearance in 1946.

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Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said, "The initiative comes from the Pope's desire to utilize all opportunities for communication which technology offers and are characteristic in the world today," according to the semi-official newspaper of the Vatican, L'Osservatore Romano.

The paper reported that Celli went on to say the pope has stressed how God communicated with mankind through Jesus, who was a "communicator who addressed the people of his time, using their own language."

One outstanding question remains: What language will the pope use to tweet? When the Vatican sends out important documents, it often uses multiple languages to communicate with the billion-plus members of the Catholic Church. In addition to the English version, the Vatican news twitter feed also has Spanish, French and Italian versions. The appearance of eight pontifical accounts seems to suggest he will be tweeting in all eight languages.

The pope’s foray onto Twitter provoked us to ask “What would Jesus have tweeted?” by tweet. A few responses:

[tweet https://twitter.com/hana161616/status/275566671274594304%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/vmsalama/status/275562732114309120%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/DynaMoxie/status/275562850121023488%5D

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (665 Responses)
  1. Eddie Vanmeer

    Am I the only one that thinks this man is real creepy looking, sort of like a picture you would find in a story on pedophiles.

    December 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  2. The Court

    Tweet get DNA tested find out what side you are from. FACT!

    December 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  3. The Jackdaw

    and next he will hire a whippersnapper to help him use it.

    December 3, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      That's what the Jesuits will be for. Scary thought, though, is getting Tweets from the Pope during someone else's sermon.

      By the way, I know this is a dumb internet meme, but if he wore a monks cowl, he WOULD look just like Emperor Palpatine!

      December 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      I thought the same thing! He really does look like the emperor! Maybe he will be in Episode VII !

      He can feel the hate flowing in us now!

      December 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  4. Just Me

    A.J. Ayre , the former Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford, and Britain’s most eminent philosopher said "Then he said, ‘I saw a Divine Being. I’m afraid I’m going to have to revise all my various books and opinions.’ When Ayer was released by his doctors a month later, friends and family did notice that he’d changed. “He became so much nicer after he died,” was the mordant way my mother-in-law, Dee Wells, put it to Cash. “He was not nearly so boastful. He took an interest in other people.”

    December 3, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Akira

      Nice story.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • TheXian

      Just me:
      NDE is not a public proof. I'm glad the philosopher changed his mind, but thats not gunna convert the masses bub.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  5. Reasonably


    December 3, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  6. Colin

    I wonder if he's already on an FBI watch list for child $exual predators.

    December 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Just Me


      December 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  7. Bob R.

    Jesus Christ Does Anybody Really care about this...If so what a sad world we live in....

    December 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  8. Vic

    I am a born again Christian Protestant, and I respect everybody. This is not intended for a cheap shot; it's just out of curiosity:

    "Benedict" originally means "the one who gets married!"

    ben·e·dict audio (bn-dkt) KEY


    A newly married man who was previously considered a confirmed bachelor.

    Source: http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/benedict

    December 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Jonathan S.

      The Pope IS married... Catholic priests are married to the Church.

      December 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Just Me

      Jonathan S. – Sorry to burst your bubble, but the Catholic is NOT married to the body of Christ, which is His church. Catholics have and are still deceiving many into false doctrines and claim that God has chosen them to be the "TRUE" church when Christ NEVER spoke of any RELIGIOUS group, but He did rebuke the religious leaders of the church.

      December 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Just Me:
      Chapter 16

      18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19l I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

      The Commissioning of the Disciples.* 16f The eleven* disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17* When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18* g Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19h Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20i teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.* And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

      Jesus established the church, the priesthood and the sacrament of reconciliation. Peter was the apostle with primacy, the first head of the Church. Each Catholic priest today has received ordination in a direct and unbroken line of succession from this.

      "This expression "married to the Church" is not a juridical term, nor canonical, but rather biblical. It originates from Jesus' self-description of himself as the groom, the bride-groom of the Church. It is more facile to see dedicated women religious as the brides of Christ, but the priest also represents the church which he serves till death. The entire corpus of the mystical writings of St. John of the Cross represents Jesus as groom and all of us as his bride. Fr. Bob Levis"

      December 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Vic: So what exactly are you curious about? This perhaps?

      The pope explained his choice of name during his first General Audience in St. Peter's Square, on 27 April 2005:
      "Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples. Additionally, I recall Saint Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, whose life evokes the Christian roots of Europe. I ask him to help us all to hold firm to the centrality of Christ in our Christian life: May Christ always take first place in our thoughts and actions!”

      December 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Vic

      Apostle Peter was called "Simon Peter," was married and had a son:

      Matthew 10:2
      "2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;"

      Matthew 8:14
      "14 When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever."

      Mark 1:30,31
      "30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. 31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them."

      Luke 4:38
      "38 Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her."

      1 Peter 5:13
      "13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark."

      Jesus Christ is the ONLY Mediator between us and God the Father; therefore, I don't believe in Popedom!

      1 Timothy 2:5
      "5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,"

      Hebrews 8:6
      "6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises."

      Hebrews 9:15
      "15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."

      Hebrews 12:24
      "24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel."

      [Scripture from New American Standard Bible (NASB)]

      December 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  9. Chick-a-dee

    “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia) and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable”



    Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 11 November, in the year 2012, the eighth of my Pontificate.

    December 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  10. lol??

    Governments are the Beasts. Religion is the False Prophet. The power of the dragon in the middle is reflected from the prize, the atheists on CNN blogs. It's a dialectical process highly esteemed by Athena and the educratists.

    December 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • TheXian

      So ridiculous I love you. =)

      December 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Just Me


      December 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  11. hindu Gay ism = filthy hind loving ism, WAY OF hINDU FILTHY ANIMALS.

    Humans, my Imam, copy cat, opened up a tweeter account too, goon, his first tweet was:

    #I am ashamed to be a muslim, goon of Thin Allah

    December 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  12. lol??

    JAHG will save americult. They are united.

    December 3, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  13. Blasphemy

    Ritualized and memorize

    No thinking allowed.

    December 3, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • TheXian


      December 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  14. lrich_9

    I'm trying to think if it's possible for me to care any less than I already do about what some old f art in a funny hat has to say. Since when did tweets become actual news? I despise Twitter and all the other social networking sites, what a complete waste of time & energy.

    December 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • The Man

      And yet you write this lengthy comment...how ironic.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  15. Blasphemy

    The Pope is the CEO of one of the biggest multinational Corporations on the planet. It is also one of the least ethical to boot.

    December 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Reasonably

      So powerful they even have their own country recognized by the UN.

      Good times.

      December 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  16. Beagle

    I am torn on Catholicism. Their beliefs and traditions violate many of the ten commandments, and a lot of evil has taken place in their churches. I do know many though who are full of love and give mightily of their time and resources to help people from all (or no) faiths.

    December 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • snowboarder

      beagle – i think given the proper opportunity, those who would do good would do so regardless of their catholicism.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Blasphemy

      An occasional right does not make up for centuries of wrongs.

      Even gangsters are charitable when it suits their agenda.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Beagle

      I don't know. I know many Christians who give a ton of time and money, freely, to help others. I know many atheists, and only one gives of such, and sparingly.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I am an atheist and I always give till it hurts. Has nothing to do with religion or lack there of. It has to do with the person plain and simple.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • PrimeNumber

      I was talking to a well educated Catholic woman the other day. We were talking about jury duty. She told me that at one time she was refused for service on a jury. The reason? They told her she was rejected because she was a Catholic. Catholics were seen as being too lenient by the judicial system.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  17. Ran

    Please stop you anti-Catholic hate. If you are not Catholic then go your way without the hate.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Beagle

      But it is the belief blog, obviously where all the atheist evangelists like to hang out...

      December 3, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Blasphemy

      Please stop you anti-humanity Catholics.

      Don't want my reactions to your devious deeds then get the Flock out of my face and out of politics.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • AtheistSteve


      We're not here for your benefit....far from it. As near as we can tell you and your ilk are beyond reaching. No.. we come here to address the concerns of those whose bullshit detector has been going off and casting doubt on their faith. For them we offer rational, skeptical analysis of the problems they face. Also to provide a sense of community for those who feel unable to express their atheist worldview in situations where they are surrounded by theists. Coming out as an atheist is still dangerous with regard to jobs, or with family and friends in the balance. Our voices are for them....you're a lost cause.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Ran we're going to be hated right up until the second coming. Pay no more mind to them than you would to a swam of gnats.

      December 3, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      Then stay the PHEUCK OUT of government, and quit moving against birth control, (and causing overpopulation and the end of livable human life on the planet.) STOP impeding scientific research, (not to mention the child abuse, ties to the mob, etc.) on stem cells, going against Roe vs Wade and on and on. About the only thing better than the church, (which I was raised in, got out of with a virgin anus as an altar boy, lucky me) is that it IS a bit better than the American Taliban protestant christian "wrong" because it at least admits evolution is just as much of a fact as gravity or the earth revolving around the sun. (Of course it took them until 1995 before they admitted they really shouldn't have locked up Galieo for pointing that out through observation and mathematic. What a joke, the pope has twitter.

      December 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Akira

      Question: if one leaves the RCC and then acts as if they are Catholic for posting purposes, are they true to Catholicism?

      December 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • TheXian

      The RCC requires regular attendance and use of the sacraments. Leaving the church to them is not doing the practices of a catholic.

      December 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Akira

      I thought as much...would it be considered hypocritical to such pretense here on the blogs?
      Understanding that one can pretend to be anything they wish, this being the net and all.

      December 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Oldster


      The RCC rarely, if ever, takes anyone off of their rolls, especially at donation time:

      The local church, which I have not attended for 20 years, recently sent me a personalized (Mr. & Mrs.) letter asking for a written promise that I would donate $108 per month for 5 years for their building fund (and the letter was followed up with a phone call). This is in addition to a requested 'regular monthly contribution'. That $108 is not some nice round figure, pulled from the air. They calculated it from somewhere – where?

      They even tracked down my current address, which is different than when I was a member. Odd that they knew this, and the letter even called me by my nickname, but they were unaware that the Mr. and I were divorced in 1999 and he died in 2007!
      I was simply curt during the follow-up phone call – I kind of wish that I had given them an earful, but I knew that it was just some poor schmoe on a scrounge committee.

      December 3, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Every year, I get a least one kid in class that asks about this. The answer is that the during Sacrament of Confirmation the Holy Spirit indelibly marks your soul for God. So, while someone can become non-practicing he can't become an ex-catholic unless he is excommunicated and that rarely happens. The circu.mstances for it are pretty few and far between and even then it can be lifted through Reconciliation. God wants us to be with him.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • The Man

      A Belief blog on CNN? give me a break.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Oldster:

      I am sorry for your loss. I am also sorry that your parish was not welcoming enough to bring you into closer communions so that there would be individuals who personally knew you during your time of bereavement and could have been a support to you. Please consider recontacting your priest and discussing this. There are a number of ways to be involved and it sounds like much more effort to connect is needed on all sides.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Oldster


      Thank you for your kind words, but if you will read my post again, you will see that lack of bereavement support is not my point at all.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Oldster: I got it the first time around. We're supposed to be a community. Sadly, it sounds like that didn't happen in your parish or you wouldn't have been a stranger...just a name on the parish roles that remained unrecognised instead of a person called to mind by that name. I've actually experienced something quite similar...at times being lapsed, other times being just an envelope in the weekly collection basket...decades of being a Catholic without knowing anyone. It didn't change until I changed and sought a connection. I'm glad I did it has become a positive in my life and has been a positive for our nuclear family. It was such a good thing that I hope you and others might also experience it.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  18. snowboarder

    it still surprises me that people still fall for this superst itious stuff.

    December 3, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Blasphemy

      They start in on them from the moment of birth.
      They brain wash them with ritual and guilt.
      When that does not work they use force.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  19. chaz

    as it says in the bible, "You shall not call anyone Father Except me..." (paraphrasing)

    so no, I do not recognize this man as anything but someone just like me, and we are all Saints!

    December 3, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Ryan M.

      In 1 Cor. 4:15 Paul says that he "begotten" the Corinthians through Jesus Christ and the Gospel, so it would seem that there are fathers, in the way of Christ, and in a spiritual sense. This is exactly the role of the Catholic priest in ministering to his parish. Even the term used by some Protestants, namely "pastor," denotes a sort of fatherhood over his "flock."

      December 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Ryan M.

      And, yes, the Pope is just like you- a sinner in need of redemption. So was Peter. Yet, we see the primacy of Peter in reading the Gospels, Acts and the history of the Early Church. Still more, we also see a succession of the apostles (cf. Acts 1) but under the jurisdiction of the Pope (Acts 15). Study and pray on these things for yourself. Peace be with you.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • TheXian

      I wish to discuss the primacy of peter. I think this is a false interpretation. Peter was leader in Judea. Paul was leader in Greece. Paul usurped Peter's power in Acts 15. Discuss.

      December 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Peter's Primacy In Scripture
      by Fr. William Most
      ‘16:13-20: Promise of the primacy to Peter’: Jesus did not ask what people were saying out of ignorance – even without the vision in His soul He would likely have known. But He was leading up to the important question of who they said He was. Peter speaks for the whole group, and says Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus says Peter knew this by revelation from His Father.
      How much did Peter really know? It is evident He knew Jesus was the Messiah. But did Peter have the right notion of the Messiah? His attempt to dissuade Jesus from suffering seems to indicate Peter had the false idea, that of a military conqueror. What did Peter mean by the "Son of the Living God."? This could mean divinity, and many have thought so. Yet it would not have to be such, even though Peter had a revelation. That revelation might have given him some idea of the identi.ty of Jesus without being a full and clear picture. The fact that Peter denied Jesus later would fit with this, although if Peter had learned by way of an interior locution Peter might have had a clear message at the start, which later, by the time of the death of Jesus, had faded, and so Peter could deny Him. In an interior locution, it is as if God touches the brain of the person and can convey even a large amount of information at one touch. That seems to have been the case with St. Paul on the Damascus road vision, for the words spoken by the vision then were few, and did not cover all of basic Christianity – yet later (Gal 1:12) Paul said He did learn Christianity from that vision. About the possibility of fading certi.tude – St. Teresa of Avila in her ‘Life’ 25 wrote (I. p. 741, ‘Obras Completas’, B. A. C. Madrid, 1951): When God speaks in this way, "the soul has no remedy, even thought it displeases me, I have to listen and to pay such full attention to understand that which God wishes us to understand that it makes no difference if we want it or not. For He who can do everything wills that we understand, and we have to do what He wills." But in ‘Interior Castle’ 6. 3. 7 (ibid, II, p 426): "these words do not pas.x from the memory after a very long time" but "When time has pas.xed since heard, and the workings and the certainty it [the soul] had that it was God has pas.xed, doubt can come." And so Peter might have known the divinity of Jesus at this occasion, but later the certi.tude had vanished.
      Some Protestants even today try to claim verses 17-19 - with the promise of primacy – were just a late interpolation, and not part of the original text. There is simply no manuscript evidence at all to support this notion. Rather, it shows how clearly these Protestants perceive the real meaning of the words, so that they feel driven to such an extreme as to propose, without any foundation, a claim of interpolation.
      Special attention in such a charge is given to the word ‘Church’. Now the Greek ‘ecclesia’ is rare in the Gospels, though common in St. Paul. If we omitted this word, we would have a Messiah without a messianic community – a thing unthinkable to current Jewish ideas.
      The ‘Anchor Bible’ commentary on Matthew by W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, two good Protestants, rejects the interpolation charge flatly, and admits a Catholic interpretation of the words about the rock: . . "one must dismiss as confessional interpretation [based on denominational views] an attempt to see this rock as meaning the faith, or the Messianic confession of Peter." The evangelical ‘Expositor's Bible Commentary’ agrees with Albright and Mann, but then tries to claim ( pp. 373-74) that Peter was not given special authority – all Christians had the same. And it as.xerts that "binding and loosing" meant merely preaching the Lutheran error on justification by faith – that would forgive sins. (similar comments by many Protestants on the grant of power to forgive in John 20).
      Their claims are very false. First of all, one should try to see what the text means, not read things into it. They are reading into Matthew the error of Luther. – This is ‘eisegesis’! – Luther thought justification by faith meant just confidence that the merits of Christ apply to me – then one could sin as freely as he wanted, and no harm. Luther even said in Epistle 501 to Melanchthon: "Even if you sin greatly, believe still more greatly." And in another letter to Melanchton, August 1, 1521 (‘Works’ 48. 181-82) he said that even if one commits fornication and murder 1000 times a day, it will not separate him from Christ. Justification itself according to Luther made no change in a person: he remained totally corrupt, with the merits of Christ, like a cloak, thrown over him. But 2 Peter 1:4 says we are made sharers in the divine nature, for we are sons of God (1 Jn. 3:2)and so partake of the nature of the Father. And 1 Cor 3:16 and 6:19 says we are temples of the Holy Spirit – who would not dwell in total corruption. 1 Cor 13:12 He has already given us the first payment, the Spirit, in our hearts (1 Cor 1:22). When the veil of flesh is removed we will see Him face to face: 1 Cor 13:12 says in heaven we see God face to face. God has no face, the soul no eyes, but it means we will know Him directly. When I see you, I do not take you into my head, I take in an image of you. But no image could show God as He is. So there must be no image – so God joins Himself directly to the soul without even an image in between. He would not do that with a totally corrupt soul. As Malachi 3:2 says: "Who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire."
      Besides, the words "bind and loose" have no reference to such a distortion. They were current in the days of Christ, and by them the rabbis meant to give an authoritative decision on what was right or wrong. And only the authorities could give such a decision – not just every Christian as the Protestants would have it.
      Protestants like to add an appeal to Mt 18:18 to say the power is given to all Christians. But in context, it speaks of a decision of the church, the ‘ecclesia’, not of each individual. But if we put it into the framework of a trajectory, the picture is clear. We begin with Luke 10:16, "He who hears you hears me." It is true, this was not spoken only to the Twelve. But as we said, the trajectory clarifies the picture. Mt 18:18 on which we have spoken cannot refer to all Christians precisely because there is a question of authority to declare what is right and wrong - in Jewish thought, that belonged only to the Rabbis, not to all. At the Last Supper, according to John 13:20, Jesus said: "Amen, amen, I say to you, he who receives the one I send, receives me; he who receives me, receives the One who sent me." The thought is like that of Luke 10:16, but at the Last Supper there were only the Apostles present. Then Mt 28:16-29 in which He says all power is given Him in heaven and on earth, is explicitly spoken to the Eleven, who are sent to teach or to make disciples. We could add that the early Church definitely understood the grant of authority to just the Apostles. In Acts 1:15-26 a replacement is chosen for one of the Twelve, for Judas. Acts 2:42 reported that the people "devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles", and in Acts 5:13: "No one of the rest dared to join himself to them [the Apostles] but the people magnified them."
      The Protestants not only misunderstand things, but claim that Matthew is entirely clear – all Scripture is entirely clear, according to them. In that they contradict Scripture, for 2 Peter 3:15-16 tells us that in St. Paul's Epistles, "there are many things hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." Protestant twisting of this pas.xage surely fits what Peter's Epistle said.
      And of course from the start the Church has understood the Scripture far differently from the Protestant distortion, as we just saw in the verses from Acts. Then Pope Clement I, writing to Corinth c 95 AD. claimed authority over Corinth. St. Irenaeus, who had heard St. Polycarp tell what he heard from the Apostle John, said that "the faithful who are everywhere must agree with this church [Rome] because of its more important principality." Very different from saying every Christian forgives sin by preaching a false doctrine of "justification" – that leaves one totally corrupt – by faith. In the early heresies it was the Pope's decision that counted, e. g., at Ephesus in 431 AD. the Bishops heard the decision of Pope Celestine, and replied "He [Peter] lives even to this time, and always in his successors gives judgment."
      Some have tried to suppose verses 17-19 are retrojection, something spoken after Easter, retrojected to this spot. We distinguish. If they mean the whole pas.xage was retrojected, that would be impossible – for after the resurrection Jesus would not ask who people say He is, nor would Peter merely say He was Messiah - an understatement by then.
      If we were to suppose just verses 17-19 were retrojected, that would not be impossible, but there is no evidence. What of the fact that Mark does not have these words? We may conjecture: Mark wrote from the preaching of Peter, as even Martin Hengel of Tübingen admits (‘Studies in the Gospel of Mark’, tr. J. Bowden, Philadelphia, 1985, p. 29). As a matter of modesty, Peter might not have preached at Rome about his own authority.
      The word ‘rock’ is merely a play on words. In Aramaic there is no difference between the word for rock and Kepha, Peter.
      The gates of hell could mean the gates of death, but more naturally mean the powers of hell. They will not prevail. So if the Church founded by Christ had taught the wrong way to salvation for most of 1500 years, until Luther, the promises of Christ would be practically worthless. Nor could one dodge and say a few held on to the true meaning. No evidence at all for that. And even so, the Church as such, as identifiable, would have been in gross error until a grossly immoral Luther was sent by God to correct it!
      "Keys" of course signified power to rule, as is obvious.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Fr. William Saunders

      A Protestant friend of mine and I recently had a debate over whether Jesus actually made St. Peter the first pope. Although I cited Matthew 16, my friend had some other interpretation of it. What is a good answer to this question?—A reader.
      In Catholic tradition, the foundation for the office of the pope is indeed found primarily in Matthew 16:13-20. Here, Jesus asked the question, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" The Apostles responded, "Some say John the Baptizer, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Our Lord then turned to them and point-blank asked them, "And you, who do you say that I am?"
      St. Peter, still officially known as Simon, replied, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Our Lord recognized that this answer was grace-motivated: "No mere man has revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father."
      Because of this response, our Lord said to St. Peter, "You are 'Rock,' and on this rock I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The name change itself from Simon to Peter indicates the Apostle being called to a special role of leadership; recall how Abram's name was changed to Abraham, or Jacob's to Israel, or Saul's to Paul, when each of them was called to as.sume a special role of leadership among God's people.
      The word "rock" also has special significance. On one hand, to be called "rock" was a Semitic expression designating the solid foundation upon which a community would be built. For instance, Abraham was considered "rock" because he was the father of the Jewish people (and we refer to him as our father in faith) and the one with whom the covenant was first made.
      On the other hand, no one except God was called specifically "rock," nor was it ever used as a proper name except for God. To give the name "rock" to St. Peter indicates that our Lord entrusted to him a special authority. Some anti-papal parties try to play linguistic games with the original Greek Gospel text, where the masculine-gender word "petros," meaning a small, moveable rock, refers to St. Peter while the feminine-gender word "petra," meaning a mas.sive, immovable rock, refers to the foundation of the Church. However, in the original Aramaic language, which is what Jesus spoke and which is believed to be the original language of St. Matthew's Gospel, the word "Kepha," meaning rock, would be used in both places without gender distinction or difference in meaning. The gender problem arises when translating from Aramaic to Greek and using the proper form to modify the masculine word "Peter" or feminine word "Church."
      "The gates of hell" is also an interesting Semitic expression. The heaviest forces were positioned at gates; so this expression captures the greatest war-making power of a nation. Here this expression refers to the powers opposed to what our Lord is establishing—the Church. (A similar expression is used in reference to our Lord in Acts 2:24: "God freed Him from the bitter pangs of hell, however, and raised Him up again, for it was impossible that death should keep its hold on Him.") Jesus as.sociated St. Peter and his office so closely with Himself that He became a visible force protecting the Church and keeping back the power of hell.
      Second, Jesus says, "I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." In the Old Testament, the "number two" person in the Kingdom literally held the keys. In Isaiah 22: 19-22 we find a reference to Eliakim, the master of the palace of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:17ff) and keeper of the keys. As a sign of his position, the one who held the keys represented the king, acted with his authority and had to act in accord with the king's mind. Therefore, St. Peter and each of his successors represent our Lord on this earth as His Vicar and lead the faithful flock of the Church to the Kingdom of Heaven.
      Finally, Jesus says, "Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven." This is rabbinic terminology. A rabbi could bind, declaring an act forbidden or excommunicating a person for serious sin; or a rabbi could loose, declaring an act permissible or reconciling an excommunicated sinner to the community.
      Here, Christ entrusted a special authority to St. Peter to preserve, interpret and teach His truth. In all, this understanding of Matthew 16 was unchallenged until the Protestant leaders wanted to legitimize their rejection of papal authority and the office of the pope. Even the Orthodox Churches recognize the pope as the successor of St. Peter; however, they do not honor his binding jurisdiction over the whole Church but grant him a position of "first among equals."
      St. Peter's role in the New Testament further substantiates the Catholic belief concerning the papacy and what Jesus said in Matthew 16. St. Peter held a preeminent position among the Apostles. He is always listed first (Mt. 10:14; Mk. 3:16-19; Lk. 6:14-1 5; Acts 1:13) and is sometimes the only one mentioned (Lk. 9:32). He speaks for the Apostles (Mt. 18:21; Mk. 8:28; Lk. 12:41; Jn. 6:69).
      When our Lord selects a group of three for some special event, such as the Transfiguration, St. Peter is in the first position. Our Lord chose to teach from St. Peter's boat. At Pentecost St. Peter preached to the crowds and told of the mission of the Church (Acts 2;14-40). He performed the first miraculous healing (Acts 3:6-7). St. Peter also received the revelation that the Gentiles were to be baptized (Acts 10:9-48) and sided with St. Paul against the need for circu.mcision (Acts 15). At the end of his life, St. Peter was crucified, but in his humility asked to be crucified upside down.
      As Catholics, we believe that the authority given to St. Peter did not end with his life but was handed on to his successors. The earliest writings attest to this belief. St. Irenaeus in his described how the Church at Rome was founded by St. Peter and St. Paul and traced the handing on of the office of St. Peter through Linus, Cletus (also called Anacletus), and so on, through 12 successors to his own present day, Pope Eleutherius. Tertullian in as.serted the same point as did Origen in his , St. Cyprian of Carthage in his and many others.
      Granted, the expression of papal authority becomes magnified after the legalization of Christianity and especially after the fall of the Roman Empire and the ensuing political chaos. Nevertheless, our Church boasts of an unbroken line of legitimate successors of St. Peter who stand in the stead of Christ We must always remember that one of the official ti.tles of the pope, first taken by Pope Gregory the Great is "Servant of the Servants of God."
      As we think of this answer, may we be mindful of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, and pray for his intentions.
      Fr. Saunders is president of the Notre Dame Insti.tute and as.sociate pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish, both in Alexandria.
      This article appeared in the October 20, 1994 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald." Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.

      December 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • lol??

      Ya got the wrong peter. Simon the sorc-error is your man.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  20. Eric

    Power corrupts. The power of religion (ALL ORGANIZED RELIGION) corrupts absolutely. No cause has killed more people than religion. I'm gonna listen to this clown? NO

    December 3, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Beagle

      LOL, greed, and lust for power and control have been the main cause of most wars. These are tenets of no religion I know of, well maybe Satanism. Anyways, Atheist nations have done their fill of killing others too, Soviet Union anyone?

      December 3, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • DemFromSC

      Amen, brother, amen! When are we going to mature and realize that this is the only world that we will ever see? Enough of the grown men running around in costumes!

      December 3, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • sam

      @Beagle – there's no such thing as an atheist nation, dumbass.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Beagle

      ROFL! What would you call the Soviet Union then???
      Here you go little one, please educate yourself:


      December 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • sam

      The point is that no one runs around doing rotten things to others while yelling "For atheism!".

      And the SU is about as uniformly atheist as the idiots in America claiming this is a christian nation. It's crap. Get off the computer before you embarass yourself further.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Why_Bother

      Absolutely correct. Christianity has killed more people throughout history than anything other than disease, natural disaster. Makes me wonder if Jesus biggest trick was getting the world to be believe in the devil and then make them think he wasn't the devil.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • jim

      Jesus could have saved millions by telling people to boil drinking water instead of him walking on it...

      December 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • TheXian

      You're right, they yelled "For the Motherland". They praised the state as if it was a god.

      December 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Just Me

      Hitler, Stalin, Mugabe, Ceausescu, Pol Pot, all murderous leaders only interested in wealth and power. ALL OF THESE ARE ATHEISTS. So, yes, the religion of atheism has and keeps killing people.

      December 3, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Just Me


      December 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      The People's Republic of China was established 1 October 1949. Its government is officially atheist, having viewed religion as emblematic of feudalism and foreign colonialism, and maintained separation of state and the church. This changed during the Cultural Revolution, in 1966 and 1967. The Cultural Revolution led to a policy of elimination of religions; a massive number of places of worship were destroyed.


      State atheism may refer to a government's anti-clericalism, which opposes religious insti.tutional power and influence in all aspects of public and political life, including the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen.[3] State promotion of atheism as a public norm was first practiced during a brief period in Revolutionary France. Since then, such a policy was repeated only in Revolutionary Mexico and some communist states. The Soviet Union had a long history of state atheism,[4] in which social success largely required individuals to profess atheism, stay away from churches and even vandalize them; this atti.tude was especially militant during the middle Stalinist era from 1929-1939.[5][6][7] The Soviet Union attempted to suppress public religious expression over wide areas of its influence, including places such as central Asia.


      December 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Do you have a point? Shall we point out the examples of what happens when religions take over?

      December 3, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      I suppose I should have directed it to sam since he was the one who posted there was no such thing as an atheist state despite the fact that there certainly is.

      I'm not going to debate whether or not wars are most often caused by X or Y. Wars are caused by people and people are generally prone to greed, anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, covetousness, vanity...all of which can be found among the root cause descriptions of any war. Coincidentally, those same things are known as sins.

      December 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • sam

      The government can act as atrociously as it wants – that does not stop people from having faith; it only causes them to hide it. And the lack of organized religion does not automatically = atheism.

      What's been proven here is that some governments are assholes to begin with by telling people what they can and cannot believe; it's not that far a leap to assume they'll behave badly in many other ways, that have nothing to do with atheism.

      Atheism was never the problem in these cases to begin with. Nice try, though.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
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