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Noah Y. Kim
By Noah Y. Kim January 11, 2021

No, Pope Francis has not been arrested

If Your Time is short

• A representative for the Holy See at the United Nations said there’s no truth to the claim. 

• Pope Francis live-streamed an address from the Vatican on Jan. 10. 

• A purported quote in the article from an Italian prosecutor is a doctored version of a statement from a U.S. law enforcement official about an arrest in Alabama.

Social media users are circulating a false claim that Pope Francis has been arrested by Italian authorities and charged with child trafficking and fraud. 

The claim appears to have gone viral through an article for the website Conservative Beaver. 

"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," it reads. 

The article further claims that the Italian National Prosecutor’s Office ordered the arrest, and that Italian police, the International Criminal Police Organization and the FBI will interrogate the Pope at an undisclosed location. 

There is no evidence to support any of these claims. This article was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

"I can categorically deny those outlandish accusations. There is no truth whatsoever to them," said Rev. Fr. Roger Landry, attaché for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. 

No credible news organization has reported anything along these lines about the pope. 

The Conservative Beaver article was published Jan. 10, and said the pope had been arrested the night before. But on Jan. 10, Pope Francis live-streamed an address from the library of the Apostolic Palace.

The Conservative Beaver cites several Tweets claiming that a blackout had occurred in Vatican City during the purported arrest. However, multiple people living in Vatican City told the Catholic News Agency that there was no blackout on Jan. 9. 

The article also quotes Giuseppe Governale, an Italian prosecutor, as saying: 

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"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. While I am a lead prosecutor in Italy, my department will strive to protect our citizens, especially those that need us most, our children."

The quote is not from Governale. It’s a doctored version of a public statement issued by a different official, Madison County, Ala., Sheriff Kevin Turner, relating to a human trafficking arrest in Alabama. 

The Conservative Beaver article swaps out the words "Madison County" with "the Vatican and Italy," the words "counties around our state" with "countries around Europe," and the words "the sheriff" with "a lead prosecutor in Italy." 

The Conservative Beaver has published misinformation in the past, falsely claiming at various points that George Soros, Barack Obama and Hunter Biden had been arrested. An investigation by Lead Stories found that a photo purporting to show  Zayden Thornton, the owner and operator of the site according to the "About" page, appears to contain a fake computer-generated face.

Our ruling

A website claims that Pope Francis was arrested Jan. 9 "in connection with an 80-count indictment of charges including possession of child pornography, human trafficking, incest, possession of drug paraphernalia and felony fraud."

A representative for the Roman Catholic Church said there’s no truth to the claims. 

Pope Francis live-streamed an address Jan. 10 from the Apostolic Palace. 

This claim is inaccurate and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Catholic News Agency, Why is the internet abuzz with false claims of a ‘Vatican blackout’?: A CNA Explainer, Jan. 11, 2021

Conservative Beaver, Vatican blackout: Pope arrested on 80 count indictment for Child Trafficking, Fraud, Jan. 10, 2021

Email interview with Rev. Fr. Roger Landry, attaché for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, Jan. 11, 2021

Lead Stories, Fact check: Pope NOT arrested on 80-count indictment for child trafficking and fraud during supposed 'Vatican Blackout,’ Jan. 10, 2021

Lead Stories, Fact check: George Soros NOT arrested for election interference, NOT in federal custody, Nov. 23, 2020

Lead Stories, Fact check: Former President Barack Obama was NOT arrested for espionage -- It's a made-up story, Dec. 1, 2020

Lead Stories, Fact check: Hunter Biden was NOT arrested for possession of child porn, Nov. 9, 2020

Library of Congress, Holy See: Vatican State

Madison Sheriff AL, Tweet, Jan. 7, 2021

Vatican News - Italiano, Angelus 10 gennaio 2021 Papa Francesco, Jan. 10, 2021

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More by Noah Y. Kim

No, Pope Francis has not been arrested

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