FACT CHECK: Does This Photo Feature Pope John Paul II With Two Future Pontiffs?

Joseph Casieri | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook allegedly shows a photo of Pope John Paul II seated next to future popes Benedict XVI and Francis.

Verdict: Misleading

The caption is inaccurate. The photo features different individuals than those described in the caption.

Fact Check:

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away Dec. 31 at the age of 95 after The Associated Press reported. The former pontiff was the first pope to resign the position in 600 years and was also known for his struggle to address a wave of clergy sex abuse claims at the time, according to The New York Times.

The post allegedly shows an undated photo of Pope John Paul II seated next to to Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI. “A VERY rare photograph of John Paul II with two men who would succeed him as Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI, and Cardinal Bergoglio,” the post reads. “What a wonderful photo.”

The caption inaccurately identified the individuals in the photo. A caption of the photo from ABC News explained that West German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI, was in the photo. The other man in the photo, however, is Venezuelan Archbishop Rosalio Jose Castillo Lara, Chairman of the Vatican, not Bergoglio.

Bergoglio did not become a cardinal until February 2001, according to Vatican News, nearly 20 years after the photo was taken. (Did Navy Jag Corps Charge Nancy Pelosi With Treason And Seditious Conspiracy?)

The photo was taken on Jan. 25, 1983 at the Vatican, with Pope John Paul II  signing a revision to the Code of Canon Law. The new code allowed church leadership roles for women and complaints about the church to be heard, according to the Washington Post.

This is not the first time a photo has been the source of misinformation on social media. Check Your Fact recently debunked a claim a protester during the Brazilian riots had dressed in a similar fashion to the “QAnon shaman” during the January 2021 Capitol Hill riots.

Joseph Casieri

Fact Check Reporter