Pope Francis with hand up in front of blurry grey background

Alessia Pierdomenico/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Conspiracy theorists freak after fake photos emerge of the Pope with ‘Satanic priests’

Just like the AI-generated photo of the Pope wearing a puffer coat, the image of the religious leader still fooled some.


Mikael Thalen


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A picture that purportedly shows Pope Francis meeting with a group of “Satanic priests” is being spread by conspiracy theorists across social media. But the Pope has once again fallen victim to artificial intelligence (AI).

One of the images went especially viral among Spanish-speakers on Twitter, who claimed that the picture had been taken in the Italian city of Bergamo.

“They criticize #PopeFrancis for having greeted a satanic priest in Bergamo #Italy,” a translation of a tweet featuring the photo said. “What do you think?”

Responses to the tweet varied, with many users quickly realizing that the photo had been generated with AI.

But just like the AI-generated photo of the Pope wearing a puffer coat, the image of the religious leader still fooled some.

Is the photo fake or not?” one user asked.

Another called on their followers to “repent,” arguing that the picture was some sort of apocalyptic signal.

Meanwhile, one user applauded the photo as an example of two religions showing tolerance to one another.

“Times change and the spiritual opening is free,” a translation of the comment reads. “Healthy coexistence and respect.”

Yet a quick reverse-image search shows that the picture first appeared on or around April 5 on Twitter. The picture was also next to another AI-generated image that was significantly easier to spot as fake.

Pope Francis, given his occasional progressive stances on certain issues, has made him a target for right-wing conspiracy theorists for years.

The emergence of text-to-image tools such as DALLE-2 have led to an explosion of AI-generated images of prominent figures such as the Pope.

So the next time you see Pope Francis surfing a wave or meeting aliens, you might want to double check that it is real.

Why it matters

The emergence of easy-to-use AI tools has undoubtedly caused a new issue in the fight against disinformation. More than any other image, the photo of the swagged-out Pope proved just how far the technology has come.

At the same time, real images and videos, such as those that are old but are passed off as new, continue to fool many online. While AI is troublesome, the world still has a far way to go in detecting even the simplest forms of misinformation.

The Daily Dot