Vatican doctors photo of letter by former Pope Benedict praising Pope Francis, releases real thing

Vatican doctors photo of letter by former Pope Benedict praising Pope Francis, releases real thing
After coming under intense criticism for doctoring a photograph of a letter by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI (right) praising Pope Francis (left), the Vatican on Saturday released the complete letter from the former pope. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

After coming under intense criticism for doctoring a photograph of a letter by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI praising Pope Francis, the Vatican on Saturday released the complete letter from the former pope, The Associated Press reported.

The part of the letter the Vatican hid was Benedict’s reason for not providing commentary as part of a new Vatican-published compilation of books about Francis’ theological and philosophical background, the AP reported. And Benedict’s reason? One of the authors had launched “virulent,” “anti-papist” attacks against Benedict’s papacy and teaching, the outlet added.

Benedict also said he was “surprised” the Vatican had chosen the theologian to be included in the 11-volume “The Theology of Pope Francis,” which marks the fifth anniversary of Francis’ papacy, the outlet added.

The Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications said Saturday it was releasing the full text of the letter due to the controversy over the “presumed manipulation” of information, the AP said.

Why did the Vatican withhold that part of the letter?

The Vatican said its decision to withhold part of the letter was based on its desire for reserve “not because of any desire to censure,” the outlet reported.

More from the AP:

The so-called “Lettergate” scandal has embarrassed the Vatican for the past week and fueled the growing chasm between supporters of Francis’ pastoral-focused papacy and conservatives who long for the doctrine-minded papacy of Benedict.

A Twitter hashtag #releasetheletter went viral among Catholic conservatives as the scandal widened.

The Secretariat for Communication, in particular, was accused of spreading “fake news” for having omitted key parts of Benedict’s letter and — as The Associated Press reported — digitally blurring a photograph of the document where Benedict begins to explain why he won’t comment on the book.

The controversy commenced when the prefect of the office, Monsignor Dario Vigano, read part of Benedict’s letter aloud at the book presentation last Monday, the outlet reported. The portions Vigano chose to read included Benedict saying Francis possesses solid theological and philosophical training as well as praise for Francis, noting the book demonstrates “interior continuity” between him and Francis, the AP added.

However, Benedict’s complete thoughts about the book weren’t made public in the news release or the photo, the outlet said, which gave the false impression Benedict had read the volume and fully endorsed it.