Pope Francis Selfie: Hoax Story About Pope’s First Self-Shot Goes Viral, Hits Mainstream Media

Pope Francis shared his first selfie on Monday; or, at least, that was the story circulating around the Internet when a shot of the smiling Roman Catholic leader went viral.

The picture showed Pope Francis with a wide smile in a tight frame, looking very much life a selfie that someone might share on Instagram. But, that wasn’t the case.

Instead, the Pope Francis selfie was a hoax, and the picture was actually taken during a video chat in 2014. Still, it managed to fool a number of national news outlets including CNN, which posted a picture of the alleged Pope Francis selfie before issuing a retraction.

As Mashable noted, the Pope Francis selfie hoax stirred up some concern about the social media presence of the Roman Catholic leader.

“The purported ‘selfie’ immediately raised red flags due in part to Pope Francis’ typically humble nature. During a visit to the U.S. earlier this year, Pope Francis warned an audience of ‘chasing likes‘ on social media. ‘I would dare say that at the root of so many contemporary situations is a kind of radical loneliness that so many people live in today,’ Francis said to an audience of American bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. ‘Running after the latest fad, a like, accumulating followers on any of the social networks.'”

Those who dug a bit into the story would already know it’s a fake. For one, the picture had reportedly originated from the Vatican’s Instagram account, but the Vatican doesn’t actually have an Instagram account.

Not that Pope Francis is against social media; in fact, he is the most technology-savvy leader the Roman Catholic Church has ever known, and his Twitter account has more than 8 million followers. Social media — and the millennials who fuel it — love Pope Francis on the platform, as well.

His messages of openness toward all religions and speaking out against the church’s sometimes over-emphasis on social issues like homosexuality and abortion has made him very popular among the younger generation. That was seen last month with the release of the Pope’s “debut album,” called Wake Up!

The album is actually a collection of the pope’s speeches, recorded between 2013 and 2015, set to rock music. Newsweek described the album as “prog-rock inspired.”

This is not the first major hoax to reach mainstream media in the last week. On Friday, reports spread that Mexican cartel leader El Chapo had vowed to go to war with ISIS after the Islamic militant group allegedly messed with a shipment of the cartel’s drugs in the Middle East.

It turned out the El Chapo vs. ISIS story was also a hoax. It originated at a small site called Cartel Blog, where the author claimed that the information came from a leaked email.

“It turns out a Mexican blogger leaked the message after it was sent email encrypted directly to the Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, a prominent ISIS leader,” the unnamed author wrote. “The blogger has intimate ties with actual Sinaloa cartel members, so it looks as if the warning is indeed legit.”

Though the threats were almost cartoonish in nature, a number of mainstream media sites ran with the El Chapo vs. ISIS hoax story. They later issued retractions when the origin of the rumor came to light.

The Pope Francis selfie hoax was wrong on more than one account. Aside from the fact that its origin was false, it also wasn’t his first selfie. The pope has shared a number of self-shots in the past.

[Image via Instagram]