ROME (SE): The city of Rome awoke on the morning of February 4 to see large, glossy posters featuring Pope Francis plastered on billboards at 40 locations around the city asking him where his compassion and mercy are in the midst of the series of persecutions he has been carrying out against certain sectors of the Church since he took over the papacy.
Showing the pope with a sour visage, a caption read, “Ah, Franky, you’ve put the (Vatican) congregations under supervision, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate and ignored cardinals… But where is your compassion?”
The caption is written in the Roman dialect as if to show that the posters represent the sentiments of the people of the Eternal City and, most importantly, they are not signed or acknowledged.
The world media grabbed the news quickly, surmising that some conservative Catholics disaffected by the pope’s recent work, the Joy of Love, as well as other unfamiliar gestures and talk must be behind the prank.
However, wiser and more knowledgeable heads doubt this theory. It was pointed out that the posters were of high quality, well printed and expertly posted.
They also appeared only on spots marked SPQR, which stands for the old Latin term of Roman times, Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and People of Rome), which today denotes spaces for government posters only.
But the use of the familiar and endearing address, Franky (France’ in Italian), perhaps indicates that those responsible for the posters feel close to the pope. It is like a child talking to a friend.
If that is the case, the posters would appear to be mocking the pope through a form of satire, which, since it is not particularly funny, may well fall into the category of Fake News, part of the description of the latest word added to the Australian lexicon, the Macquarie Dictionary.
It is what a blogger calling himself Enzo tagged a false poster flag.
But the text is the big giveaway, as those who care about the (Vatican) congregations being under supervision or a few priests losing their Vatican jobs, let alone worrying about the Order of Malta or the Franciscans of the Immaculate, not to mention having any interest in the welfare of cardinals, are limited to a field of possible suspects that could probably be counted on the fingers of the hand.
Mark Cardinal Ouellet surmised that the posters were the work of the devil and other theories range from describing them as satirical criticism in an effort to suppress critics of the pope or simply mock him.
However, Father Antonio Sapdaro, the editor of Civilta Cattolica, seems to have given a bit more thought to the matter. He believes that there is nothing ordinary about them at all.
He wrote, “There have appeared in Rome fake-popular anonymous posters, expensive, against Pope Francis. It is a sign that he is acting well and is irritating some people very much. Those posters are threats of intimidation. In faux Romanesco (Roman dialect) to persuade people that they are from the people. Or course not!”
Father Spadaro then puts his view forward, “The real ordinary people do not debate about the Order of Malta, or the canonistical dubia (doubts) of cardinals. For heaven’s sake!”
He continued, saying, “ Behind this are corrupt people and there are strong powers that mount strategies to remove the pope from the heart of the people, which is his great strength. And the result is the opposite effect.”
The posters were covered with white paper by government workers within a few hours, or had the sticker illegal posting plastered across them.
To date, despite a police investigation, there is no further light to shine on the mystery people behind the ridiculing posters of the pope and, given the amount and breadth of speculation that has gone on around the matter, it may well stay that way.