Q: Is Pope Francis dying?
A: There is no credible evidence that he is terminally ill. The viral claim is based on a single news story published Dec. 7 by Newsmax, a conservative news outlet, which attributed the information to an unidentified Vatican source. No other publication has reported it.
Is Pope Francis dying? The attached fake article is going around without a link to open and confirm if it’s actually an article. I’m a Newsmax subscriber and I didn’t see it but just wanted to check.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March 2013. He has spent the last eight years being very active in the position, despite recent health issues.
In July, the pope had colon surgery, which led to him being hospitalized for 10 days after the surgery. His hospitalization caused concern since the surgery had not been announced in advance.
After the surgery, the pope revealed that he had a portion of his intestines removed and was taking post-operative medication, according to Euronews. He also reportedly said he had no intention of stepping down and was leading “a totally normal life.”
Francis, who turns 85 on Dec. 17, continues to perform his regular duties as pope — despite his age and medical history.
He recently concluded a five-day trip to Cyprus and Greece, where he visited several refugee camps to bring attention to the migrant crisis in the area. DW News posted a video of Francis greeting migrants at one of the camps, and he did not appear to be in poor health.
While aboard the papal plane returning home from his travels on Dec. 6, the pope said plans were in the works for him to travel to Moscow for a second meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
A Dec. 7 post on Facebook reads, “The Pope is dying, news outlets reporting.”
That same day, conservative news outlet Newsmax published an article — which is behind a paywall — with the headline, “Vatican Preps for Conclave as ‘Pope Is Dying.’” In a tweet about the story, Newsmax wrote, “BREAKING: A Vatican source tells Newsmax’s John Gizzi that ‘Pope Francis is dying,’ with insiders saying they believe he will not survive past 2022.”
Our readers have asked us about the pope’s health, citing the Newsmax report. But we have not been able to verify what Newsmax reported. We reached out to the Vatican for comment, but we did not receive a response.
On Twitter, Bree A. Dail, a Rome correspondent for the Epoch Times, another conservative news organization, also said she was not able to corroborate the story. “No, I cannot confirm any of the assertions or allegations made in this report, published by @newsmax,” she tweeted, along with the text of the Newsmax article.
Newsmax does not provide any support for the claim that “Pope Francis is Dying,” other than a quote that was attributed to an unnamed “secretary of one of the most powerful Vatican Cardinals.”
Instead, Gizzi, Newsmax’s chief political columnist and White House correspondent, simply wrote, “Vatican insiders, including my source, do not believe he will survive past 2022.” He added that the anonymous source, “tells me Vatican officials are already in ‘pre-Conclave mode’ and preparing the logistics for Francis’ passing.”
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DW News (@dwnews). “Pope Francis offered comfort to migrants during a visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos and blasted Europe’s indifference to their plight, saying ‘please, let us stop this shipwreck of civilization.’ Twitter. 7 Dec 2021.
Dail, Bree A (@breeadail). “No, I cannot confirm any of the assertions or allegations made in this report, published by @newsmax.” Twitter. 7 Dec 2021.
Filippis, Alberto. “‘Resign? Forget about it’: Pope Francis plays down health fears.” Euronews. 02 Sept 2021.
Horowitz, Jason. “Pope Exploring a 2nd Meeting With Russian Orthodox Church.” New York Times. 6 Dec 2021.
Gizzi, John. “Vatican Preps for Conclave as ‘Pope Is Dying.’” Newsmax. 7 Dec 2021.
Giangravé, Claire. “Pope Francis likens European efforts to ‘cancel Christmas’ to dictatorship.” Religion News Service. 06 Dec 2021.
Newsmax (@newsmax). “BREAKING: A Vatican source tells Newsmax’s John Gizzi that “Pope Francis is dying,” with insiders saying they believe the Pontiff will not survive past 2022.” Twitter. 7 Dec 2021.
Samson, James. “REPORT: ‘Pope Francis Is Dying’ – Vatican Preparing For Conclave.” Red Voice Media. 8 Dec 2021.
“Vatican Source: ‘Pope is Dying’, Conclave Prep underway, credible Journalist reports.” Novus Ordo Watch. 7 Dec 2021.
Winfield, Nicole. “EXPLAINER: Who runs the Vatican while pope is hospitalized?” AP News. 6 July 2021.
Winfield, Nicole. “Pope returning home after trip focused on helping migrants” AP News. 6 Dec 2021.
This article was written by Brea Jones during her time as an NABJ/Facebook Fact-Checking Fellow at the University of Pennslyvania’s publication Factcheck.org.