The Pope in Philly

Can Pope Francis drink beer? A Billy Penn investigation


Anyone visiting America’s best beer-drinking city would be remiss not to have a beer while they’re here, and that includes Pope Francis, who arrives September 26 for the World Meeting of Families. Whether or not His Holiness will actually sip suds is another question, which we can answer in two parts.

1) Is Pope Francis allowed to drink beer?

Turns out there are no official restrictions on the Papal diet, although Francis was recently advised by doctors to cut down on his pasta intake — he gained weight since taking office, and it’s making the sciatica in his lower back more painful.

Though it’s not mentioned by name in the Bible or used in ceremonies, as wine is, beer has long been an integral part of the Catholic church. Cistercian monks have been brewing beer since the 1600s, and there are 11 Trappist breweries operating today (including one recently approved in the U.S.). The conclave that selected Pope Francis was likely drinking beer when they made their decision — it was reported that the cardinals received delivery of several cases of beer from the Monks of Norcia in San Benedetto, Italy, just before they retired behind closed doors to deliberate.

Pope Francis himself has been gifted beer by various heads of state. On his April 2014 trip to the U.K., he received a gift box from Queen Elizabeth that included a bottle of English bitter ale (he also got whiskey, eggs, chutney, honey and soap). Vatican officials said Francis would share or donate the edibles.

A few months later, in June 2014, Pope Francis got a visit from Horst Seehoger, who is the Minister-President of Bavaria, the region in Germany where modern beer was born. Seehoger’s gift basket included wine, coffee, pralines and beer, of which the Pope made special note, per Vatican-based website Rome Reports.

Wine, coffee, pralines…



This strongly makes the case for Mayor Michael Nutter presenting a few bottles of some killer Yards or Victory.

pope at bob and barbaras


2) Does Pope Francis like beer?

Before he ascended, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was a Jesuit, which means he led a relatively austere life, without indulging in excess. He was known to avoid eating out at restaurants, preferring to cook for himself, according to a 2009 profile in Argentine newspaper La Nación (if only he’d kept to his regimen of “fruit, skinless chicken and salads,” doctors wouldn’t have had to put him on a diet). He was described as drinking an occasional glass of wine, and beer was never mentioned.

This is in contrast with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who hailed from Bavaria and was basically a total beer geek. During his tenure, several pictures of him with stein in hand popped up in news reports. This past spring he celebrated his 88th birthday by drinking a pint in the Vatican gardens.

Although Pope Francis hasn’t yet been reported as actually drinking beer, it makes sense that he’d like beer as a concept. He’s a populist, and beer is often seen as a beverage for the masses, with very little snobbery about it. (When a U.S. president wants to be seen as a man of the people, beer is the go-to prop of choice.)

There’s a great quote that the Internet has (unfortunately mistakenly) attributed to a Pope Francis speech given on World Youth Day 2103. It reads, in part:

We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends.

The phrase has been floating around in English since 2010, however, so it’s unlikely this Pope (or any Pope) actually said it. Still, it’s a sentiment Francis would get behind.

But there’s only one way to be sure. If you’re one of the people lucky enough to get near him during his visit to Philadelphia…

Offer him a sip and see what happens.

Top photo: If Pope Francis did drink beer, Franziskaner seems ready made for him — the label even features his doppelganger.

Want some more? Explore other The Pope in Philly stories.

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