Vatican Communications Director Resigns over Misrepresented Benedict Letter

A series of 11 booklets on The Theology of Pope Francis and a letter from former Pope Benedict, which was read out at the presentation of the work, are seen at the Vatican in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters March 15, 2018. (Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters)

The Vatican’s media chief has resigned after he was exposed misrepresenting a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI regarding Pope Francis.

Monsignor Dario Vigano handed in his resignation Wednesday to a reluctant Francis, who convinced him to take on a lesser role in the Vatican’s communications department.

Vigano originally hid crucial parts of the letter penned by the pope emeritus from the public, creating the impression Benedict had given a full-throated endorsement to the Vatican’s new multi-volume book set about Francis’s theology. More broadly, he touted the private letter as a sign of the harmony between Benedict’s doctrinal firmness and Francis’ more lenient approach.

However, at an event introducing the book set, he omitted reading aloud the part of the letter where Benedict criticized the inclusion of German theologian Peter Huenermann, who the retired pope said “virulently” attacked the teachings of the Catholic Church during Benedict’s papacy.

Vigano also provided the press with a photo of the letter that blurred one section out. The blurred section turned out to contain Benedict’s admission that he would not comment on the new books because he did not plan to read them in full.

The parts of the letter Vigano did release were those where the pope emeritus praised the plans for the books as showing the “inner continuity” in the Church from pope to pope.

“I applaud this initiative that wants to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice in which Pope Francis is just a practical man without particular theological or philosophical formation, while I have been only a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete life of a Christian today,” a translation of the letter in the National Catholic Register reads. “Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates, despite all the differences of style and temperament.”

The Vatican eventually released the entire letter after taking heat for the blurred section.

The letter scandal came shortly after Francis denounced “fake news” in his annual media message, sparking snide remarks from critics.

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