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.



4 thoughts on “Pope Francis vs. Pope Benedict’s First One Hundred Speeches: A Data Analysis

  1. Indeed content and orthodoxy in the so-called “Catholic” faith, and here Benedict/Ratzinger wins hands down! For he is simply one of the greatest theologians to sit in the so-called Chair of Peter in a very long time, perhaps certainly one of the greatest “Catholic” theolog’s in our time!

    1. A good reason perhaps for the Holy Spirit to keep Pope Emeritus Benedict still among us!
      His principal work though as Pontiff is completed, or the Holy Spirit would have given him the stamina and Inspiration to continue on this path. Personally, I am beginning to more fully understand and appreciate the movement of the Holy Spirit in His choice and election of Pope Francis. As with any ‘humble servant of God’, they are both Gifted Instruments for HIS purposes alone and with only a specific allotment of time–as God so designs and desires.
      As the heavens are above the earth, so HIS Ways are not our ways and so it will always be. We have but to wonder, ponder-in-heart and seek to understand…His unfolding Mystery!

      1. Indeed we both hold very different authorities! I can now never give the authority and biblical type language that Roman Catholicism gives to the papacy! There have been good popes and certainly bad popes in the long history of Catholicism, but never the authority of any 1st. Century Apostle, certainly Peter! This is what I believe anyway, and what I simply must state in my biblical and theological faithfulness! Note also, I don’t believe in the perfect authority of the EO either! The true and historical Church is always “Pilgrim” and fallible, i.e. human and sinful. Thus Protestant… and Ecclesia semper reformada est. A church always reforming, by “spirit and truth”!

        And this pope “Francis” is quite a departure from the likes of a Benedict/Ratzinger! He likes to sound traditional and even conservative, when it suits him, at least in Catholicism. But he is really a social liberal Jesuit! One has to call it as he sees it! Let him reform the Roman Curia, this have not come much sense Pope Pius X, if at all. And certainly Vatican II did not do it! And his treatment of Catholic “Traditionalism” has been awful! He basically has made the Ordinariates an easy highway, and certainly less in the Anglican Patrimony! But again, my thoughts at least!

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