A series of Facebook posts claiming that Pope Francis delivered a retirement speech is misleading. The text contained in the posts was not the pope’s exact words but an unofficial summary and a pastor’s analysis of a speech he made in Cuba in 2015.
There is also no official announcement from the Vatican the 85-year-old pontiff is set to retire.
Facebook user Dom Badinas posted at 5:51 a.m. on June 7 an excerpt of a pastor’s reflection on Pope Francis’ 2015 address, claiming it was his “retirement speech that shocks the world.” Its beginning paragraph said:
Please look at the speech that was read yesterday at retirement by the Pope. Regardless of religion, see how Pope Francis has beautifully written about the family.
The post was edited at 9:58 p.m. that same day, removing the paragraph about retirement. But the original version had received 80,000 interactions by then. The post’s current version has 6,584 reactions as of writing.
Records from the Holy See’s website show that the pope did deliver a speech about family during his apostolic visit to Santiago, Cuba for the World Meeting of Families on Sept. 22, 2015. The official translation of his speech, however, does not contain the text carried by the posts.
Instead, these were taken from a December 2019 Times of Swaziland article written by a pastor named JV Mazibuko from another Christian sect. Mazibuko excerpted in his reflection an unofficial translation and summary published in Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor in November 2015.
A website called The Paradise republished Mazibuko’s reflection in 2020, claiming it was the pope’s retirement speech.
In the Roman Catholic church’s history, only five out of its 266 popes have resigned from office. They are Benedict IX in 1045, Gregory VI in 1046, Celestine V in 1294, Gregory VII in 1415 and Benedict XVI in 2013.
Analysis from social media tool CrowdTangle, which scans public Facebook pages, groups and verified accounts, shows that the same claim was posted as early as June 3 in Facebook group CHRISTIAN JOKES, QUOTES, STORIES & WITNESSES, but did not get any interaction.
Badinas’ post received 86,681 interactions, 132,357 shares and 27,000 comments as of writing.
CrowdTangle statistics for the past week also showed that the exact claim was reposted 157 times by different accounts and garnered 26,272 interactions. This peaked on June 8 when 120 posts on the claim were made. (RC)