The Vatican requests a retraction

The story in this morning’s Times of London had all the ingredients of a Fleet Street scoop: Prince Charles’s upcoming papal audience, King Henry VIII’s divorce and Pope Benedict’s faux pas gift.

The problem was, the report was “completely untrue and has no basis whatsoever in fact,” according to the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

It may be a sign of the times that the Vatican issued a sharply worded request for a retraction of the story only a few hours after it appeared in print. I certainly can’t remember the last time the Vatican Press Office made public a letter of complaint to a major news outlet.


“I would ask you to issue an immediate and unambiguous denial,” said Father Lombardi’s letter to the Times editor-in-chief.

Could it be the Vatican is getting fed up with inaccurate reporting?

The Times story said that when Prince Charles comes to the Vatican next week, Pope Benedict planned to present him with “a gift that may strike an unwelcome chord”: a facsimile of the 1530 appeal by English peers to Pope Clement VII asking for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

As everyone knows, Pope Clement refused that appeal, King Henry married his mistress anyway and renounced Roman Catholicism, establishing the Church of England.

As the Times put it, the pope’s gift appeared to be either “an unfortunate accident or a piece of mischievous theater.” That was no doubt enough to set people off at the Vatican.

One part of the story did appear to be true: The Italian company Scrinium is in fact producing a limited-edition facsimile of the famous letter of Henry VIII, in collaboration with the Vatican Secret Archives, which holds the document in its underground vaults.

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11 Responses to The Vatican requests a retraction

  1. panalty says:

    Nice article…no retraction or apology. Oh! Well! the press is the one that is infatible!

  2. panalty says:

    Yes! I said “infatible” !

  3. Michael says:

    The Press makes the news.

  4. Mark says:

    I think it’s good that the Vatican is responding to things said about it more quickly.

  5. Don’t most poorly-reported Vatican news stories first appear in English in the UK press? If so, improving British religion reporting would benefit the entire Anglosphere.

  6. simon says:

    i feel that poor reporting ihas to be checked

    not only in the vatican but in the catholic press world wide

  7. bakra1961 says:

    its poor reports on catholic websites that worries me

    i am very suspicous of goan priests and their motives
    they support tourism as long as the local catholics can profit from it
    it does not matter what comes with low budget tourists from europe and other parts of india
    casinoes alone are not responsible for”gambling, alcoholism and prostitution ”
    such obvious misrepresentation is not good for the church

  8. Sharon says:

    Is this story mischievious or are journalists too lazy these days to check the veracity of their stories?

  9. Linus says:

    It’s too bad today’s media can’t get things right. They need to be accountable for much more than misstatements of fact. But this is a positive step.

  10. Mary T. says:

    At least Henry VIII didn’t have his first wife killed so he could marry his mistress. Could this be what the Times is alluding to? The Vatican appears to be a foil for this bit of English intrigue, something they love. They could give a hoot about the Pope.

  11. Used to be a saying…”LIES, LIES, DAMNED LIES” for numbers…now it is Newspapers not checking their facts first…specially when the story sounds fishy, like the smell of the published story. Here it was published under the name of Richard Owen from Rome. (in Ottawa Citizen, April 19, 2009 on page one.

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