"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Thursday, March 29, 2018



The fake news on the Pope (emeritus)’ death 


An online newspaper announced that Ratzinger had passed away. Mistakenly rushing to be the first is just the tip of an iceberg of false alarms
That the Pope emeritus’ physical forces are slowly diminishing and that Benedict XVI feels “on pilgrimage towards Home” is a fact. He said so himself just a few weeks ago. It is even obvious that an over-90-year-old would be also preparing for his departure. It is less obvious however, that the fake news about his death gets published online, as happened yesterday late afternoon, when the online newspaper “Il Quotidiano del Lazio“ issued it, and then withdrew with an apology: they had trusted - they explained - a “source that we considered credible”, but that obviously was not.

If this time the fever of being the first to publish has played a bad trick (for sure the news of the death of a Pope, even if emeritus, is not kept hidden but immediately disclosed), readers should know that in the last two years these alarms about Ratzinger’s health have multiplied and now almost monthly Vatican reporters are called by their editorial offices to verify alleged alarming “spills”, which, in most cases, circulate among insiders but never go public.

It is the climate that the Vatican has lived for more than ten years during the long final phase of John Paul II’s pontificate. Among his many records, Pope Wojtyla can boast two that he would certainly have renounced: for once, he is the first contemporary Pontiff whose false death was announced in St. Peter’s Basilica during a mass.

It happened in the nineties, while John Paul II was in Castelgandolfo: an elderly prelate who lived in the Vatican next to a cardinal friend of the Pope, having known that the latter had left quickly towards what was then the summer papal residence, had deduced that Wojtyla had moved on to a better life. And at the end of the mass celebrated at 7 a.m. in St. Peter’s, a few and sleepy faithful had been asked to pray for the Pope who had just passed away. Then, after leaving the basilica, he realized that the Bronze Gate had been opened normally and there were no signs of mourning. When Pope Wojtya met him for the first time after the accident, he jokingly asked, “Monsignor, how are you? But even worse had happened in 1996. Due to a media mess-up, a Latin American TV, believing that the Polish Pope had died, had begun to broadcast long commemorative reports and films about his pontificate.

Yet the most striking accident occurred on the morning of 8 October 1958, when an important Italian press agency had announced the death of the agonizing Pius XII, causing four important newspapers to publish a special edition each. It was not true, and even if the Pope died the following night, the fact provoked the protest of the Holy See against Italy. At the origin of the misunderstanding was a signal - that the pontifical doctor had agreed to give to some Vaticanists by moving the curtain of a certain window of the Castel Gandolfo palace when the end of Pope Pacelli had arrived. It happens that a nun, obviously unaware of everything, moved that curtain, thus activating the signal... the fever of being the first did the rest.

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