CNA Staff, Jan 11, 2021 / 07:30 am
On Sunday, Jan. 10, the internet was abuzz with false reports of an overnight blackout at the Vatican, accompanied by a series of claims concerning Pope Francis, the Italian police, and the FBI. The claims were widely shared by conspiracy theorists, generating bewilderment and concern among Catholics around the world.
On Jan. 10, a website called the Conservative Beaver published a report headlined “VATICAN BLACKOUT: Pope arrested on 80 count indictment for Child Trafficking, Fraud.” The article was widely shared on Twitter and triggered a spike in Google searches for the term “Vatican blackout.”
What do we know about the Conservative Beaver website?
The website describes itself as “a conservative news outlet” that has published “news stories of interest to proud Canadians” for more than 10 years. It says it is a self-funded enterprise that began in a University of Ottawa dorm room, before emerging as an “underground newspaper” in Montreal and online.
What did the report allege?
The website claimed that Pope Francis was arrested on Saturday, 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.”
The report asserted that the arrest was ordered by “the Italian National Prosecutor’s Office” and carried out by “military officers, Italian police, and their Sex Crimes Unit,” amid reports of gunshots. It claimed that the agents “cut off the power in the Vatican” and dimmed the livecam overlooking St. Peter’s Square to cloak their actions.