@Pontifex Lesson Plan on the Pope

In 2012 Pope Benedict XVI officially joined Twitter as @pontifex in 2012. Teachers and catechists constantly ask me how to make lessons interesting to the students, well here is a great opportunity to be relevant with lesson plan on the Pope! The Pope joining Twitter is an excellent opportunity to make real world connections to what you are teaching in class. Try out some of the activities in this lesson plan about the Pope and the title “Pontifex.”


Lesson Objective:

SWBAT describe the history and origin of the name “Pontiff” or “Pontifex” in Latin.

Lesson Assessment:


Lesson Activities:

1. Naming the Pope: Read Matthew 16:13-20. What name did Jesus give to Simon? What does this name mean? Why do you think Jesus gave this name to the first Pope?

2. What is Twitter? How does it work? Here is what Twitter says about itself.

Show this overview video of the social network Twitter: Twitter in Plain English.

Then, discuss the following:

  • Why do you think the Pope joined Twitter?
  • How can the Church use Twitter to communicate to Catholics around the world?

3. Video: The Meaning of Pontifex

Leading up to the announcement of the Pope joining Twitter, there was much speculation about what Twitter handle (name) he would take on in the social network. Would he use some variation of his name (like @BenedictusPPXVI) or focus on a title of the Pope? In the end, he went with the Latin title “Pontifex.” So what does Pontifex mean? Where did the name come from? Show this video to your class for the answers:

As they watch the video, have them fill in the following information. You can write it on the board or create a handout:

Pontifex (Latin) = High __________ (Literally, __________ __________)

63 B.C. – 4th Century:
3rd Century:
5th Century:
21st Century:

4. Assessment: Timeline of the Name Pontiff

Have the students draw a timeline that depicts the history of the name Pontiff. For each of the three ways the title was used, have the students draw a picture to represent the person who used it.

  1. pontiff as roman emperor
  2. pontiff as pope
  3. pontiff as twitter name

5. Extend and Refine:

What will the Pope Tweet about? How often would you Tweet if you were Pope? What are the dangers of Tweeting?

Here is the Pope’s first tweet:

And here are the questions and answers that followed this first Tweet:

Question 1:

Answer 1:

Question 2:

Answer 2:

Extending and Refining: Have the students write a series of other tweets that they might expect the Pope to share. Or, following the format of his first tweets, pose some theological questions to them related to what you’ve studied in class and have them write a 140-character tweet to answer the questions as a fun formative assessment.


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About Jared Dees

Jared Dees is the creator of The Religion Teacher. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Ave Maria Press and the author of 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator, To Heal, Proclaim, and Teach, and Praying the Angelus.


  1. Hugh Macken says:

    Jared- This is fantastic. I will be sharing it in our Linkedin Group for the Association of Catholics Exploring Social Media. Please feel free to join us there too at http://linkd.in/acesm
    – Hugh