A spoof front page of the Vatican’s newspaper mocking the Pope is being circulated inside the Roman Curia in another example of hostility against Francis on his own doorstep.
The realistic mock up of L’Osservatore Romano imagines the Pope responding to the questions about his family life document submitted by four cardinal critics and which require yes or no answers, with Francis being criticised by conservatives for refusing to answer the queries.
In the fake news page Francis replies to each of the queries - known as “dubia” with “yes and no” under the headline: “He answered!” A number of papal critics say that Amoris Laetitita undermines Church teaching on marriage by opening up the possibility of giving remarried divorcees communion.
Other articles on the page poke fun at Jesuit priest Fr Antonio Spadaro and Cardinal Walter Kasper, both key allies of the Pope, and Lucetta Scaraffia one of the newspaper’s few female writers but in this version is described as the editor.
While the source of the front page is so far unknown, Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported that it been widely circulated among cardinals and influential lay Catholics.
Its emergence comes after a series of anti-Francis posters were put up in around 40 locations around Rome, with protests against a Pope in Rome highly unusual in a city where the papacy is respected as a quasi-monarchy.
The mock L’Osservatore Romano is not first piece of satire aimed at the Pope: a YouTube video critiquing Francis’ family life text which is set to the music of “That’s Amore” with the line: “When will we all be freed from this cruel tyranny, that’s Amoris.”
Yesterday the Pope made a veiled attempt at the opposition he is facing by saying that the “boat of St Peter” can be “shaken by the waves” before adding: “the sailors called to row in the boat of Peter can row in the opposite direction.”
Since his election Francis has faced internal resistance sparked by his steely approach to reform and freewheeling, radical approach to the papacy.
The 80-year-old Jesuit Pope has also criticised bishops for being out of touch, accused Vatican officials of gossiping and regularly warns traditional believers against being too “rigid.”
While Francis enjoys widespread popularity among ordinary Catholics, one Church source said he could be “alienating his core audience.”
“John XXIII showed it was possible to be a kind reformer,” the source explained. “There is a danger Francis is becoming divisive”