Saints Peter and Paul Church, San Francisco

Ask the Fathers! About Saints Peter and Paul Church

Do you have a religious, ethical, or historical question for any of our Priests?

Ask the Fathers is taking a break. We will be taking questions again soon.

This page answers questions about Saints Peter and Paul church and parish. Other questions are sorted by subject matter at the pages below.

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Liturgy and Church Rules




On November 3, we received this question:

Dear Father John:

Last sunday my parents and i attended Italian mass at St. Peter and Paul which was so lovely. Being italian american and having this service is such a blessing, thank you!

We went to brunch and read through the bulletin together and the below article was very difficult for us as a family to understand.

I understand our calling to have the heart as Jesus when it comes to encountering people who are against our faith but i feel like we need to be more like the Jesus turning over the merchant tables in front of the church in anger. We are not perfect in our own faith, but i feel as a catholic community we are becoming way to lax and too easy on the press, the media, hollywood and liberal groups that attack our church , our faith, our symbols and really our hearts.

If the below group was making fun of the jewish religion and jewish symbols you can bet that the jewish organizations would be taking immediate action to ensure that those groups would be labled anti-semite and would be called to take accountability for their actions.

The bay area has so many christians and catholics especially young people that desperately need to see the clear line drawn between right and wrong , instead of the consitant grey of the bay area. They are loosing the clear understanding of our faith. Jesus left guidelines, pope john paul left guidelines.... i need more guidelines and less apathy for special interest groups that focus on the innocent and the young living in the grey so they can steal their hearts away from family, faith and the love of our lord, Jesus.

A child watching a priest make a statement about those groups with a clear understanding of why we don't want them to follow that sin would make muchy more of an impression , instead of well aren't they funny .... those funny people look at our young boys and their actions are not funny.

I feel it is time to be much stronger in our faith , our actions and yes our words , to be an exmple of love and compassion but also strength and courage to speak out loud about how we feel and how those groups that attack our faith.

thank you!

Catholic and not afraid to tell them that is Wrong!

Fr. John Itzaina answers:

Dear Anita,

I apologize if I made my bulletin on October 28 too difficult to understand. I think that brevity may have made my main point obscure: that our lack of faith in the love and mercy of God through Jesus extends even to such uncouth and blasphemous individuals who make fun of our Church. If we don't include these outrageous and notorious characters in the benefits of God's love and mercy, we've missed the shock value of Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

It is true that the Church is hammered on all sides by a vicious and pagan media. But there are different responses that we might take. We could take the Old Testament approach, our Jewish brethren's way, of a tooth for a tooth or the New Testament way from the Beatitudes: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteous sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."

My approach is to "rejoice and be glad" like Matthew's Beatitudes, but with a tenge of derision, laughing at their silliness but concerned with their deep-seated anger at the Church and confusion about their own gender identity. The Church will survive the sisters of perpetual indulgence, as it has survived much more serious attacks on Holy Mother the Church.

Fr. John Itzaina

On August 7, we received this question:


Why are the steeples a different color stone than the church itself?

Why are the four writers of the gospels, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, portrayed on the church as an eagle, oxen, man and lion?

Yours truly,

GraceAnn Walden

Fr. Armand Oliveri answers:


1) They steeples and facade of SS. Peter and Paul are made of different materials. Orginally the facade of the church was to be covered in mosaics or murals, like the cathedral at Orvieto, but the cost was found to be prohibitive.

2) These are the traditional symbolizations of the Evagelists.They take their meaning from the character of each gospel, and especially from the begiining of each Gospel. So:

St. Luke its always represented by the calf or ox, the sacrificial animal, because his Gospel begins with the account of Zachary, the priest, the father of John the Baptist.

St. John is symbolized by an eagle, symbolizing the heights to which he rises in the first chapter of his Gospel.

St. Matthew is symbolized by a winged man, a reference to the angel who is supposed to have dictated to Matthew as he wrote his gospel

St. Mark is symbolized by a lion, to represent Christ as king. Also, Mark has John the Baptist preaching "like a lion roaring" at the beginning of his Gospel.

Fr. Armand Oliveri, SDB

On April 4, we received this question:


My maternal grandmother was born in San Francisco in 1888. Her home on Greenwich St was destroyed in 1906, and at that time she moved to Alameda . My question is: She used to tell me she was baptized in St Peter and Paul Church. I am now reading a biography of Joe DiMaggio, who was also baptized there. In that book it states that the Church was built in 1922. Would that be when it was rebuilt after being destroyed in 1906 as well? Did it look different in it's original state?

Thank you,

Steve L.

We respond:


The first Saints Peter and Paul was at the corner of Filbert and Grant. It was destroyed in the earthquake of 1906.

A second, small church was quickly rebuilt on the same site. This was recognized as only a temporary solution, because of the growth of the parish.

The current property for the church was purchased from the well-known San Francisco figure, Mr. Abe Ruef. The construction of the current church began in 1913, and was finished in 1924.

To see a picture of the original church, click here.

On August 22, we received this question:


This is not really a religous question. I went to mass church early one time, and I heard some priest or some gentlemen singing in latin or gregorian music. I was wondering is this a monthly event, or does it only occur before the latin mass once a month? Thank you for your assistance


We respond:

Dear Joey,

You were probably at our Latin Mass. We have the Latin Mass at 11:45 AM on the first Sunday of each month, with Gregorian Chant.


On July 19, we received this question:

Dear Fathers:

On your web site, at!.htm, you invite us to 'ask the fathers' and state that you will publish the question and answer on your web site. Very well. Here is my question.

In 2002, the US Catholic Bishops stated a policy that a priest who is credibly accused of sexually abusing a child will be removed from ministry. Since Sts.Peter and Paul Parish is a diocesan institution in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, how is that Fr. Steve Whelan, whom a jury of his peers has found to be guilty of abusing Joey Piscatelli, is still listed on the parish website as an Associate Pastor? How is it that he is allowed to continue to represent himself as a priest in this way?

Why was he kept in place during his trial? Do the Salesians believe that their internal 'investigations' and findings carry more weight than courtsof law?

I'm looking forward to seeing your answer.


Fr. John Malloy responds:

Dear Greg,

He is still listed because the web master hasn't changed the listing. It was only yesterday that the verdict was pronounced.

The statement of the Bishops as you noted is --" policy that a priest who is credibly accused of sexually abusing a child will be removed from ministry." Two independent investigations found the charges not credible.

He was kept in place during the trial because a man is innocent until proven guilty.

The "investigations were accepted" until the conclusion of the trial.

Here's the statement of our attorney, Stephen A. McFeely of Foley & Lardner LLP, counsel for the Salesian Society:

"The Salesian Society is disappointed with the jury’s verdict and will seriously consider an appeal.

The alleged perpetrator, a teacher and vice principal at Salesian High School and a priest of the Salesian Society, denies that he engaged in any such conduct toward the Plaintiff. In his 37-year career, he has never been accused of abuse by anyone other than the Plaintiff. It is difficult for us to understand how the jury came to the conclusion that it did.

The Salesian Society shares the concern and deep hurt allegations which sexual abuse have caused. The Salesians have a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct and child abuse of any kind, and have developed a Safe Children Policy to prevent future incidents from occurring."

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On May 21, a person asked:

I was baptized in the Catholic church but my family wasn't church going. In second grade I entered a boarding school and attended a non-denominational church from 2nd-12th grade. I recently began attending Catholic mass on Sundays and I'd really like to find out what steps I can take to work toward my first confirmation and confession. I look forward to receiving you guidance. Thanks!


Fr. Malloy responds:

I do believe the Holy Spirit is leading you back to your roots. Congratulations for listening to the Spirit!

In spite of the many who want to do away with God, I find a goodly number seeking Him with all their hearts and souls!

Religion is not dead in our land. I pray you can fulfill your desire to receive the other sacraments.

How you might go about this is up to you and your work schedule. Something can always be worked out. You can seek information in any Catholic Church, if it is more convenient to you.

We have a program here at SS Peter and Paul called R.C.I. A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) We would love to have you join us, if you possibly can. It is a program of inquiry for those seeking information on the Church, or baptism, or a renewal of faith, or the reception of Confirmation, Penance (confession), Holy Communion. . . .There is a regular schedule of weekly meetings that cover a period beginning in September and ending with the Easter Vigil, and the reception of the Sacraments for those who so choose.

If you are interested, I suggest you call the one who directs the program, Janet Ross 415-771-9130 or email her at who can set up an appointment at your convenience. Adjustments can always be made.

We would love to welcome you here!


Fr. John Malloy, S.D.B.

On April 20, a person asked:


Dear Fathers,

I was baptised at SS Peter & Paul church in 1947. This has been our family church all my life. My grandparents lived on Lombard between Taylor & Jones and they baptised me. My mother's maiden name was Parisi. I wonder if you know of any published works by Fr. Larry Byrne. We know he has passed away. He was such an inspiration to our family when I and my brothers and sisters and cousins were growing up in North Beach. Also do you know if Fr. Costanzo has any published works? He was also a memorable priest. Thank you for your information.



Dear Laurie,

You are certainly correct that both Fr. Byrne and Fr. Costanzo were memorable Priests. To this day, we get calls, emails, and letters from people such as yourself, asking and reminiscing about them.

Fr. Michael Ribotta, our historian, has many memories of Fr. Byrne. He remembers that Fr. Byrne's command of the English language was so great that he was actually offered a scholarship to Oxford University, which he declined. Fr. Ribotta credits Fr. Byrne with instilling in him his own lifelong love-affair with the English language. Fr. Byrne was originally from Minnesota--he was a great hockey player. He served at Iwo Jima in the Pacific in WWII.

Fr. Malloy remembers that Fr. Byrne was renowned as a great and entertaining storyteller. He has few published works, though. Most of Fr. Byrne's writings were never compiled into a book, but were published in old issues of the "Don Bosco in the West" magazines--the magazine of the Western USA Salesian Province. The same is true of Fr. Costanzo. Fr. Michael remembers Fr. Byrne writing plays that the seminarians produced, as well as numerous articles, and he thinks it is too bad that he never had an opportunity to write a book or books. In those days (and these) the Salesians focus more on pastoral than literary/apologetic work.

Your question brought back many fond memories here at the rectory!

A previous questioner asked:

Dear Fathers,

My brother is christening his son on January 9th, and has asked me to become the God Father. Of course I am very excited to play this role in their sons’ life, and have started looking into the requirements for becoming a good God Father. According to my brother’s church, a letter is required that states (1 I am a member of a parish and (2 that I am in good standing with this parish.

Here is my question for you and your church: What would be required of me in order to obtain this letter from your parish before the christening? As I mentioned earlier, I am very excited to become a God Father and understand that religion plays a big role in this relationship – if you could provide me with some guidance with this matter, I would sincerely appreciate it.

I should point out that I was Baptized after being born in New York. After attending mass on occasion for several years, however, I was not actively involved in any particular parish.

Thank you very much for your help with this matter,


Fr. Malloy responds:

Dear Christopher,

You asked what it takes to become a God Father at the Sacrament of Baptism.

Canon Law refers to Sponsors rather than God Parents, which is the common term in the USA.

Only one male or one female or one of each sex is to employed.

But to be admitted to this role a person must be chosen by the one to be baptized, or the parents, or, in their absence, the minister, and is to have the qualifications and intention of performing this role. The sponsor must have completed the 16th year, be a confirmed Catholic, have received the Most Holy Eucharist, must lead a life in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken, and is not the father or mother of the baptized. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic community may be admitted as a witness to baptism together with the Catholic person. (Canons: 873-874)

Our parish requires that the parents and sponsors attend the class held here each first Wednesday of the month from 7:00 to 9:00PM. When sponsors are out of state, or cannot attend the class, a letter from their parish is required. As you noted in your question, the letter must state: 1) the person is a member of the parish; and, 2) the person is in good standing.

SS Peter & Paul would ask that the sponsor be registered and to promise to support the spiritual activities of the Church.

Fr. John Malloy, S.D.B.

A past questioner asked:

Dear Fathers,

I have been visiting your church for three months now at 5pm on Saturdays, as I have recently relocated to San Francisco. I am interested in your recommendations on charities that need volunteers. I currently have some of the weekends free, as well as some evenings and would welcome the opportunity to help where I may be needed.

Are there any charities or websites you could send me to that would allow me to view some volunteer opportunities? Please let me know when you have time. Thanks so much!



Dear Steven,

The best thing for you to do about finding volunteer opportunities in our parish would be to contact our parish St. Vincent de Paul Society, whose mission is to help those most in need. You can reach them by email at:

You could also check Cathoilic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco: 415.592.9200.

They have lots of needs.

Thanks for your interest!

A recent questioner asked:

Dear Fathers,

I am going to be moving up to San Francisco in a few months and would like to become a member of your church. I was baptized at St. Joseph's Church in Hays, KS. In addition, I received first holy communion at this church. When I moved out to California in the third grade my family became members of St. Jude's Church in Westlake Village, CA, where I was confirmed in eighth grade. What do I need to do to become a member of your church when I move up to SF in August 2004? Thanks for your assistance!


Fr. Malloy Answers:

Dear Amanda,

All you need is your loving presence!

We will be happy to welcome you to membership in our faith community.

When you get to San Francisco, stop by our office and register. You can stop in after Mass, if you wish.

We look forward to meeting you.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

A past questioner asked:

What ministries do you offer the homeless and mentally ill that are within your midst?


Dear Suzanne,

We offer food, clothing, and blankets to the poor in our neighborhood--we give out sandwiches every day at 4:00 PM, and people can also arrange to have food baskets prepared. Our priests minister to and comfort the mentally ill to the extent that they can, and give referrals to professional services. In addition, it is specific the ministry of our parish St. Vincent de Paul Society to minister to the poor and forgotton amonst us. The SVdP has a number of avenues to offer help. For more info about our parish SVdP, please email to:

A past questioner asked:

Dear Fathers-

I am new to the area, and have a question that I was not able to answer in my limited research. Is it simply coincidence that the address for the church is 666?



Dear Michael,

Yes, it's a coincidence. The city gives out street addresses.

Most people get their understanding of the meaning of "666" from movies like "The Omen."

As many people know, the number "666" designated as "The Mark of the Beast" is from the Revelation of St. John, Chapter 13, composed in the First Century AD.

John says "Wisdom is needed here; one who understands can calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number that stands for a person. His number is six hundred and sixty-six." (Rev. 13: 18.)

The most contemporary Biblical scholarship sees the number "666" as being understood by the Christians of the time of John as code for the Emperor Nero. The New American Bible describes how this works:

"Each of the letters of the alphabet in Hebrew as well as in Greek has a numerical value. Many possible combinations of letters will add up to 666, and many candidates have been nominated for this infamous number. The most likely is the Emperor Nero, the Greek form of whose name in Hebrew letters gives the required sum. Nero personifies the emperors who viciously persecuted the church."

So John was using the number "666" to communicate who "the beast" was, in a special way to the early Christians. That's the opinion of current Biblical scholarship.

Hope this helps!


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