I looked at my WhatsApp the other day and there were several messages with the same story: B16 was dying. Here is the text of one:
His Eminence, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal Household and personal secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, asks the world to pray for the Holy Father. His Eminence states that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI “is like a candle which is slowly, serenely fading. He is serene, at peace with God, himself and the world. He is unable to walk without assistance and is no longer able to celebrate Mass.”
It was pious, heartfelt and eloquent; it had the dull thud of a dismal truth. However, why wasn’t this at the top of Google News and the front page of all newspapers? They might have ignored each and every one of his solid achievements in life, but never would they ignore his death.
But there was nothing there. Nothing at all. I had nearly been stung by a purveyor of Fake News. He may not be well, but he certainly is alive. In short order the Vatican released a photo of Papa Ratzinger taking a stroll, supported by two elderly nuns.
The lesson: if the latest news sounds unbelievable, perhaps it is. Check and double check.
What motivates people to create pious, heartfelt and eloquent lies? A lie is a lie is a lie. It’s a mystery.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.