Rome (AFP) – Italian police were on the hunt Monday for the authors of anti-pope posters which have been slapped around Rome, amid suspicions the campaign may be linked to an arch-conservative wing of the Catholic Church.
Dozens of the illegal fliers appeared mysteriously around the Italian capital Saturday picturing a stern-looking Pope Francis, a list of accusations against him, and the words “Where’s your mercy?” — turning the pontiff’s call for a more merciful church back on him.
Police were trawling through security camera footage to track down the culprits as Rome city council said it had pulled down 200 posters while those remaining had been covered up.
No group took credit for the stunt, but Vatican watchers said the fact the main complaint referred to the “decapitation” of the Knights of Malta made it likely they came from conservative quarters.
The posters appeared on the same day that Francis appointed his own special delegate to the ancient aristocratic order, after stepping in to stop the firing of its Grand Chancellor, in a move that left traditionalists spitting.
The move publicly sidelined prominent US conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has been outspoken in his disapproval of Francis’ efforts to reform Church teaching on questions related to the family, marriage and divorce.
“Ah Francis, you’ve taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals… but where’s your mercy?” it reads.