The Vatican admitted Wednesday that it altered a photo sent to the media of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis. The manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards.
The Vatican’s communications office released the photo of the letter on Monday, the eve of the fifth anniversary of Francis’ election. The letter was cited by Msgr. Dario Vigano, chief of communications, to rebut critics of Francis who question his theological and philosophical heft and say he represents a rupture from Benedict’s doctrine-minded papacy.
In the part of the letter that is legible in the photo, Benedict praised a new volume of books on the theology of Francis as evidence of the “foolish prejudice” of his critics. The book project, Benedict wrote, “helps to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, with all the differences in style and temperament.”
The Vatican admitted to the Associated Press on Wednesday that it blurred the two final lines of the first page where Benedict begins to explain that he didn’t actually read the books in question. He wrote that he cannot contribute a theological assessment of Francis as requested by Vigano because he has other projects to do.
A Vatican spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, didn’t explain why the Pope blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released. In fact, the entire second page of the letter is covered in the photo by a stack of books, with just Benedict’s tiny signature showing, to prove its authenticity.