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THE INVERTED CROSS IS A CHRISTIAN SYMBOL

Anti-Catholics often make an issue about the Pope sitting on a chair with an inverted cross on it. They say that the Pope is a Satanist because he uses the inverted cross, the symbol of the anti-Christ, as his very own symbol. Recently, I had the chance to correct this widespread notion on Facebook.[1] This accusation is not new. In fact, a simple google-search will reveal that this has been sufficiently answered a long time ago.[2] Scripture says,You must not pass along false rumors” (Exo. 23:1, NLT). But the rumors keep on spreading. Bad habits really die hard.

First off, the Bible nowhere says that the inverted cross is the symbol of the anti-Christ. If the one making the accusation is a Protestant steeped in sola scriptura, he would have to “search the Scriptures” to find a verse that says that the inverted cross is the symbol of the anti-Christ. The Protestant’s search would be futile because there is none.

Anti-Catholic accusation that the Pope is the anti-Christ because he sits on a chair with an inverted cross
Anti-Catholic accusation that the Pope is the anti-Christ because he sits on a chair with an inverted cross

The pictures of the Pope sitting on a chair with an inverted cross were taken during Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Holy Land in the Jubilee Year 2000. The late Pope John Paul II (now a canonized saint) celebrated Mass for the youth on the site where the Lord Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

What does the inverted cross mean?

In Christian iconography, martyrs (including the apostles who were martyred) are depicted with the instruments of their martyrdom. St. Paul was beheaded and we see his images holding a sword (the sword also symbolizes God’s word as a double-edged sword). St. Jude Thaddeus is seen holding a club because he was beaten to death. St. Andrew is depicted with what is now known as St. Andrew’s Cross (X).

The martyrdom of St. Peter on the Vatican Hill: Peter was crucified upside down upon his request because he did not deem it worthy to die in the same way as the Lord Jesus Christ
The martyrdom of St. Peter on the Vatican Hill: Peter was crucified upside down upon his request because he did not deem it worthy to die in the same way as the Lord Jesus Christ

St. Andrew’s brother, St. Peter died on almost the same time as St. Paul in Rome in 64[3] AD. Church history tells us that after St. James took over the See of Jerusalem as its Bishop, St. Peter went to Antioch in 37 AD and became it’s first Bishop. After Rome was burned and the people suspected Emperor Nero as the culprit, the deranged emperor blamed the Christians for the conflagration. The Neronian persecution brought Peter to Rome who fixed his See there. Finally, he was arrested and crucified on October 13, 64 AD. This fulfilled the prophecy of Christ in John 21:18-19.

Because St. Peter did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Master, the apostle asked to be crucified upside down. Hence, the inverted cross came to be known as a Petrine symbol. It is the symbol of the martyrdom of the chief apostle in much the same way as St. Andrew’s Cross (X) is the symbol of the martyrdom of his brother St. Andrew, the first-called apostle.

Papal Symbols: The Cross of St. Peter and the Keys
Papal Symbols: The Cross of St. Peter and the Keys

Since St. Peter requested to die on an inverted cross as an expression of his humility, the Petrine cross is likewise a symbol of humility. St. Peter had never forgotten the episode of the washing of the feet (Jn. 13:1-17). He took to heart the words of the Lord, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (Jn. 13:13-17). [Incidentally, one of the Pope’s titles is “Servus servorum Dei” or “Servant of the servants of God”].

The Wikipedia states that the “Cross of St. Peter or Petrine Cross is an inverted Latin cross traditionally used as a Christian symbol, but in recent times also used widely as an anti-Christian symbol (a meaning different from that of traditional Christian symbolism).”[4] Note that it is only in recent times that the inverted cross is used as an anti-Christian symbol. Originally it was not so. Traditionally, the inverted Latin cross was used as a Christian symbol.

St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, Cincinnati, Ohio: The doors are the work of Robert C. Koepnick. They feature the papal crossed keys and inverted crosses, echoing the tradition that St. Peter was crucified upside down. http://desperatepastor.blogspot.com/2010/12/church-of-week-st-peter-in-chains.html
St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, Cincinnati, Ohio: The doors are the work of Robert C. Koepnick. They feature the papal crossed keys and inverted crosses, echoing the tradition that St. Peter was crucified upside down.
http://desperatepastor.blogspot.com/2010/12/church-of-week-st-peter-in-chains.html

The Wikipedia further discusses the meaning of the inverted or Petrine cross in Christianity: “The origin of the symbol comes from the Catholic tradition that Simon Peter was crucified upside down, as told by Origen of Alexandria. The tradition first appears in the ‘Martyrdom of Peter,” a fragmented text found in, but possibly predating, the apocryphal Acts of Peter, which was written no later than 200 AD. It is believed that Peter requested this form of crucifixion as he felt he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner that Jesus died. As such, some Catholics use this cross as a symbol of humility and unworthiness in comparison to Jesus.”[5]

One can also find the inverted cross as among the Christian symbols in Christian Symbols.Net.[6] The website states that “an upside down cross symbolizes both St. Peter and St. Jude (sic) who were crucified upside down.”

Stained glass window showing the symbols of the Papacy
Stained glass window showing the symbols of the Papacy

How has the inverted cross become a symbol of the Pope?

The Wikipedia, a  answers: “According to Roman Catholicism, the Pope is Peter’s successor as Bishop of Rome. Therefore the Papacy is often represented by symbols that are also used to represent Peter — one example being the Keys of Heaven, another the Petrine Cross.”[7]

It is deplorable that the inverted cross, an originally and traditionally Christian symbol has been co-opted and used by sinister characters. The anti-Christian symbolism of the inverted cross has been popularized by Hollywood in such films as The Masque of the Red DeathRosemary’s BabyExorcist: The BeginningThe Exorcism of Emily RoseGhostThe Devil InsideParanormal ActivityConstantineDevilPhoonkThe OmenThe ConjuringOmen, and Gummo.[8] Punk rock and heavy metal bands also use the inverted cross in their logo.

And so what? The hi-jacking of the inverted cross by certain interests opposed to Christ and His Church won’t affect the fact that the inverted cross is the Petrine cross – originally and traditionally a Christian symbol. The same holds true with the rosary. Even if the rosary has been impiously and sacrilegiously used in distasteful fashion, it won’t change the fact that the rosary remains to be a sacramental and used in pious devotion by the Catholic faithful.

Inverted cross on top of a Lutheran Church: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_St._Peter#mediaviewer/File:Lutheran_Church_of_Veitsiluoto,Kemi,Finland.png
Inverted cross on top of a Lutheran Church

Why are Catholic religious symbols hi-jacked, used and abused by the enemies of Christ and His Church?

It is because Satan is the “ape of God” and he is in the old business of making counterfeits. The Catholic Church and its symbols are its No. 1 target simply because we are the true Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Rock of Peter (Mt. 16:18).

Petrine Symbols
Petrine Symbols

[1]https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=482419528559726&set=a.153559004779115.32951.100003750494919&type=1&theater&notif_t=photo_reply

[2] http://sainteliaschurch.blogspot.com/2011/09/upside-down-crosses-at-liturgy.html

[3] Or 67 AD.

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_St._Peter

[5] Ibid. 

[6] http://www.christiansymbols.net/crosses_13.php

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_St._Peter

[8] Ibid.

Christian Symbols http://www.christiansymbols.net/crosses_13.php
Christian Symbols
http://www.christiansymbols.net/crosses_13.php

About Atty. Marwil Llasos, O.P.

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