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Vatican Media photo via AP
Only later would it become clear.
BLURRED LINES

The Vatican doctored a photo that showed Pope Benedict didn’t read books on Francis

By Johnny Simon

A photo released by the Vatican has prompted criticism from the Associated Press after it was revealed that the image had been digitally doctored and was missing some revealing details.

The photo was of a letter from the former pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013. In the letter, he defended his successor Pope Francis from criticism and spoke highly of a series of  11 small books recently published on Francis’s theology. In the Jesuit magazine America, the letter was initially described as strong show of support from Benedict against “some cardinals, bishops, priests and theologians, who allege that Francis lacks the necessary philosophical and theological preparation, with some even accusing him of heresy, and charge that his pontificate is not in continuity with that of his predecessor.”

Except, as it turns out, the last two lines of the letter revealed that Benedict had not read the books at all.

The Vatican had digitally blurred those lines. After an inquiry from the Associated Press, a Vatican official admitted yesterday (Mar. 14) that the images were doctored to conceal that portion of the letter.

The images were released to the media without any notice that they had been manipulated. Removing or obscuring important information within a frame through digital manipulation is an unethical photojournalistic practice. “The doctoring of the photo is significant,” the AP writes, “because news media rely on Vatican photographers for images of the pope at events that are otherwise closed to independent media.”

Vatican Media photo via AP
The full image, with text blurred out, as originally released by the Vatican.