The Conference of Italian Bishops (CEI) has condemned “vulgar” posters critical of Pope Francis that appeared all over Rome at the weekend and expressed solidarity with the reformist pontiff. The anonymous posters, written in the local working-class ‘Romanesco’ dialect, picture a stern-faced Francis and allege a series of misuses of papal power, with the words: “Where’s your mercy?”
“Probably the best reply is silence,” the CEI said in a statement published on Tuesday in Catholic daily Avvenire. “But at the same time, it’s hard not to react to the denigration of the successor to St Peter who has been attacked in a vulgar way,” the statement continued.
“We re-extend to the Holy Father the solidarity and affection of our churches…and support his commitment to reforming the Church and bringing it in line with the teachings of the Gospel,” the statement added. Police have been hunting for mystery activists behind the flyposting, which continues a centuries-old Roman custom of criticisms of popes on the capital’s walls or monuments.
Within hours of their appearance, the city council pulled down several hundred posters or pasted over them with the message “illegal advertising”. The posters were put up hours before the Vatican in announced the name of the pope’s personal delegate to the ancient Knights of Malta Catholic order, whose former Grand Master resigned last week after a two-month-long, highly public feud.
The Vatican did not comment on the posters. But Jesuit priest Antonio Spadaro, who is close to Francis, tweeted that they were “threats aimed at alienating the people from the Pope but which have the opposite effect”.