False claims that Pope Francis was arrested last night (Saturday) on an 80-count indictment on charges of child trafficking and fraud have gone viral on multiple social media platforms, including Twitter.
Many took to Twitter overnight to share tweets spreading the false allegation that the Italian authorities arrested Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) on Saturday amid a blackout at the Vatican seat of the Holy See.
The claims are false, but if you have been wondering how the rumor originated, here is what you need to know.
The false claims originated from a hoax story
A website, the Conservative Beaver, which describes itself as offering “News stories of interest to Proud Canadians,” published a story earlier today, claiming that during a blackout at the Vatican, the authorities arrested the pope and several other high ranking Vatican officials.
According to the website, the pope was arrested “in connection with an 80-count indictment of charges including possession of child pornography, human trafficking, incest, possession of drug paraphernalia, and felony fraud.”
VATICAN BLACKOUT: Pope arrested on 80 count indictment for Child Trafficking, Fraud https://t.co/xTTLWqQm3q Turn on your Lights! Jorge Bergoglio (aka Pope Francis/2021) arrested in Vatican for child traficking, possession of child pornography & incest. More arrests to follow. pic.twitter.com/OtRvkJtXaO
— Amadea2 (@Amadea2) January 10, 2021
Some of the Twitter users who first shared tweets alleging a Vatican blackout appeared to be linked with the notorious QAnon movement (see tweets below).
They claimed that the federal authorities in Italy deliberately cut off power to the Vatican to facilitate the arrest. They also claimed that gunshots were heard as law enforcement agents surrounded the Vatican to arrest the pope.
— anoncat🐈⬛🏴 (@anoncatnews) January 10, 2021
Why is nobody talking about the black out in Vatican and the Eiffel Tower? pic.twitter.com/JCjdOv0QqV
— Talhadd (@GFBEUTalha) January 10, 2021
BREAKING: The Vatican is going through a blackout. pic.twitter.com/ILICeGxvsE
— 🇮🇱הנותרים🇮🇱 (@Remaining33) January 10, 2021
The Conservative Beaver went on to claim that the Italian National Prosecutor’s Office confirmed it ordered the arrest of Pope Francis and Vatican officials.
According to the story, the Pope was being held in federal custody in Italy and was being interrogated by federal and Interpol agents.
The story also claimed that FBI agents were flying to Italy to interrogate him.
There was no blackout at the Vatican
A blog, The Catholic Traveler, denied the viral allegation on Twitter that there was a blackout at the Vatican and that gunshots were heard during a massive sting involving the military and police.
“I looked out my window (I can see the Vatican from my apartment) lights were on. No gunfights. No police. Cars were coming and going as usual on an early winter Sunday morning,” the blog author wrote.
The Catholic Traveler also shared a video from the live feed of the Vatican YouTube page, noting that the still photos that went viral on Twitter appeared to show a blackout only because “the camera exposure seems to be really low.”
The blog author also shared a live video he took from the Vatican that proved there was no blackout there.
The fact-checking website Lead Stories also noted that Italian state prosecutors did not have the power to arrest the pope as the Conservative Beaver claimed.
This is because Vatican City is an independent state that has its own judicial system.
The website argued it was inconceivable that major media outlets around the world would not report an incident as momentous as the arrest of Pope Francis, who is the Vatican head of state.
It was also inconceivable the Italian authorities would not issue an official statement if they carried out such an arrest.
The latest incident follows rumors in February that Pope Francis was ill with COVID-19 after he attended an event during which he kissed and shook hands with people to show support for coronavirus sufferers.
Monsters and Critics also reported that there was a controversy after the pope’s official Instagram account reportedly “liked” racy content uploaded by the Instagram model Natalia Garibotto.