Pope Francis vs. Pope Benedict’s First One Hundred Speeches: A Data Analysis

pope francis pope benedict speech

The Huff Post has the interesting comparison:

Pope Benedict’s unexpected resignation was one of the biggest religion stories of 2013, but the surprises didn’t end there for the Catholic Church. Pope Francis’ short papacy has already captured the world’s attention in the span of less than a year, as the humble pontiff’s direct statements and pastoral manner shifted the tone of the Church in an unprecedented way.

Though Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus occupied the same office, they brought different strengths to the seat of power, and their unique approaches become clear when comparing their first one hundred speeches as Pope to each other.

Data journalist Chris Walker conducted a word frequency analysis on the first hundred speeches of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict to get a visual representation of their priorities.

pope francis pope benedict

Walker analyzed word frequencies in Pope Francis’ first 104 speeches from March 2013 to November 2013, and in Pope Benedict’s first 102 speeches between April 2005 and November 2005, only using official speeches with English translations.

Larger words denote higher frequencies of use, and Walker removed the top five words used by both popes in order to better discern differences between the remaining words. Those five words were “God, Jesus, Lord, Christ, and Church.”

Though both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict used many of the same common words in their speeches, their differences become much more apparent when examining the words that each Pope emphasized. Words appearing in the word cloud below were used at least 50% more often when compared to the other Pope.


Walker told The Huffington Post, “I wanted to see how Francis’ anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist worldview took shape in his first hundred speeches as pope.”

His website says:

Francis clearly emphasized poverty and poor far more. Interestingly, he also invoked the words cross, courage, and flesh far more than his predecessor did. This suggests he referred in his speeches far more often to the example and sacrifice of Jesus. Importantly, Francis also emphasized women much more than Benedict XVI.Benedict XVI’s language showed emphasis on more terms relevant to the Catholic Church as an institution: apostolic, apostles, priests, ecclesial, diocese, parish, etc. He also used more words indicating the formal address of a diplomat; the words cordial and cordially stick out, as well as collaboration and country…

The whole piece is here.



Malcom Muggeridge on the Self-Destruction of 20th Century Western Man

. . . it has become abundantly clear in the second half of the twentieth century that Western Man has decided to abolish himself.

Having wearied of the struggle to be himself, he has created

his own boredom out of his own affluence,

his own impotence out of his own erotomania,

his own vulnerability out of his own strength;

himself blowing the trumpet that brings the walls of his own city tumbling down, and, in a process of auto-genocide, convincing himself that he is too numerous, and labouring accordingly with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer in order to be an easier prey for his enemies;

until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keels over a weary, battered old brontosaurus and becomes extinct.

—Malcolm Muggeridge, Seeing Through the Eye: Malcolm Muggeridge on Faith, ed. Cecil Kuhne (Ignatius Press, 2005), 16.