La Stampa / Vatican Insider 

Some are obvious false artworks, others are the result of incompetence or sloppiness, others are subtly crafted so to have him say what he has never said or even thought: “Fake Newsˮ on Pope Francis loosely proliferate in the galaxy of the web, and certainly, the Pope is not the only one under the fabricator’s radar, both the more harmless and enjoyable ones as of those at the service of lies. “Fake Popeˮ (editions San Paolo, 272 pages, 20 euro) is an interesting book written by two top-profile journalists, Nello Scavo and Roberto Beretta: the first a world-class correspondent, who had conducted a personal and documented investigation into the past of Bergoglio during the dark years of dictatorship in Argentina, the second a careful observer of ecclesial life capable of ironic and biting commentary. The result is an easy to read cocktail, with an objective documentary value.  

The authors collected 80 of the main accusations against the Pope, counter-reporting them point by point: relations with the dictatorships of Latin America and the Freemasonry, the manipulated Conclave, the accusations of “heresy”, the wrong appointments, relations with the Curia, the media, the scandals and even the gaffes… To distinguish between lies and truth is the task of those who believe in journalism and its professionalism.  

A significant and very revealing extra is represented by the publication’s photographic selection, which features also photoshopped photos along with proof of them being “fakeˮ. There is, for example, the photo of Pope Francis when he first appeared on the balcony of the central loggia of St. Peter. The Popes’ shadow projects on the marble wall behind shows two tips that give the head of the new Bishop of Rome a diabolical aura.  

“More than a photo – explain the authors of the book – this is an allegory: so much the metaphorical (and disparaging) intent that the image should transmit according to the author, is clear… There is the shadow of the devil behind Pope Francis‘ election, so obvious that “you can see” it, in fact, printed on the jamb of the Loggia from which the new Pontiff first came out. The “retouching” was simple, as you can see from the original below: just a hint of horns and you have it! At least for those who want to see the devil even where there should be only holy water”. In fact, if you go back to the original image, you can see that the one with the horned head has been retouched.  

Among the examples of fake news-photo, there is that of the “Pope Francis’ first selfie “. Smuggled in 2015, it obviously got thousands of likes on Instagram with an account that alludes to the Vatican. “The image – reads the book by Scavo and Beretta – was instead taken from a video chat in which the Pope had participated with some young people from various parts of the world. Even illustrious official news channels, such as CNN, fell for it”.  

And then there is a photo which would allegedly show a Francis “subjugated to the power of the Jews”, which is also very popular on the web. It shows the Pontiff kissing the hand of some elderly people wearing the kippah (the Jewish cap), with the title: “The Pope kisses the hand in a humiliating way of one of the leaders of the Masonic-Judaic terror”, and below, in a larger font: “If I were you I would start asking questions…”. Very true, some questions must be asked, to find out who the slanderer is, given that Francis, during his visit to Yad Vashem, the Shoah Memorial, in the great hall, where the perennial flame burns in memory of the six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis, kissed the hand in sign of respect, of some (now few) people who survived the Holocaust.    

Andrea Tornielli is the editor of Vatican Insider at La Stampa. Republished under a Creative Commons licence.