FACT CHECK: Was Pope Francis Arrested On Charges Including Human Trafficking And Fraud?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims Pope Francis was indicted on 80 counts including human trafficking and fraud.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that Pope Francis was arrested. The claim stemmed from an article by a website that has previously published misinformation.

Fact Check:

The image on Facebook appears to show a screen grab of a Jan. 10 article published by the website Conservative Beaver titled, “VATICAN BLACKOUT: Pope arrested on 80 count indictment for Child Trafficking, Fraud.” The Conservative Beaver is a self-described Canadian conservative news website that publishes “news from your favourite alternative sources.”

“Pope Francis aka Jorge Mario Bergoglio was arrested Saturday in connection with an 80- count indictment of charges including possession of child pornography, human trafficking, incest, possession of drug paraphernalia and felony fraud,” the screen grab reads.

The Conservative Beaver article goes on to suggest that electricity had to be cut off in the Vatican so that military officials could make the arrest on Saturday. The Conservative Beaver also claimed that Italy’s chief anti-mafia prosecutor Giuseppe Governale commented, “These individuals are truly the worst of the worst in society. I can promise you, we will not stop targeting human trafficking until we put a stop to this despicable trade in the Vatican and Italy, as well as surrounding countries around Europe.”

There is, however, no evidence of Pope Francis being arrested. If Pope Francis had been arrested, major media outlets and Catholic news outlets would have reported on it, yet none have. The Holy See press office likewise has not published a press release about the supposed incident.

A video on the Vatican News YouTube channel shows Pope Francis reciting the Angelus prayer on Jan. 10, the day after he was purportedly arrested, further adding to the post’s dubiousness. Pope Francis also sent several tweets from his verified Twitter account that same day.

The alleged Governale quote actually appears to be an altered version of a quote from Alabama police sheriff Kevin Turner, according to a tweet from the Madison County, Alabama sheriff’s office. Turner is quoted as saying a very similar statement in the sheriff’s office’s Jan. 7 tweet thread about an individual in Madison County who was indicted on 75 counts.

The Catholic News Agency published an article addressing the Conservative Beaver article’s claims, saying there was no evidence of the incident and “not a single established news outlet reported a disturbance at the Vatican on Saturday.”

Vatican correspondent Colm Flynn, who lives near the Vatican, said he “didn’t notice any power outage” and Mountain Butorac, a tour guide who lives near the Vatican, wrote on his blog The Catholic Traveler that there was no massive blackout. “I looked out my window (I can see the Vatican from my apartment) lights were on,” Butorac wrote. “No gunfights. No police. Cars were coming and going as usual on an early winter Sunday morning.”

The Conservative Beaver has previously published misinformation. In December, Check Your Fact debunked an article from the website claiming that former President Barack Obama had been arrested on espionage charges.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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