Opposition to Pope Francis has spilled over into the streets of Rome after a series of posters critical of the pontiff appeared around the city at the weekend.
The posters were put up between Friday and Saturday night and show a stern-looking Francis above the slogan: “where is your mercy?”
Written in local Roman dialect they say the Pope has "removed priests; decapitated the Knights of Malta" and "ignored Cardinals,” which echo some of the complaints of conservative Catholics.
On the day of the posters appearing, Francis appointed a special delegate to the Order of Malta following a public spat with the knights which led to the resignation of its Grand Master, Matthew Festing.
Senior Vatican figure, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, will be the Pope’s sole spokesman with the order in overseeing a “renewal” of the knights, a move that alienates leading conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is the order’s patron. His job description is to be the Pope’s personal representative to the knights.
While previous Popes have sparked protests on visits abroad, it is rare for public opposition to appear against the Bishop of Rome on his doorstep.
The city authorities pasted over the posters with the message “illegal advertising” as they had been put up without official authorisation or the payment of a tax.
While the Vatican did not comment Fr Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit who is close to Francis, said the posters were a sign that the Pope was doing a good job and was therefore irritating people.