ROME – Pope Francis says journalists who accuse him of being pro-Russian for not condemning Vladimir Putin by name for his invasion of Ukraine are falling into “disinformation, slander, defamation, and coprophilia.”
The pontiff was responding to a letter sent to him by Argentine journalist Gustavo Sylvestre, who works for the C5N television station, which is aligned with the current government of the South American country.
“Coprophilia” is the technical term for a sexual fetish involving human excrement.
In his letter to Sylvestre, Francis said some of the reporters accusing him of a pro-Putin stance could be being paid to write such articles.
“Sad! Such a noble vocation as that of communications being soiled,” the pope writes.
The letter was published by the journalist on his personal blog, the same day Federico Villegas, Argentina’s representative to the UN agencies in Geneva, published a tweet thanking the ambassadors of Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Pakistan, Belarus, China and South Africa for a “great discussion” on how to preserve “multilateral diplomacy.”
Sylvestre didn’t publish his own letter to the pope, but his blog claims the pope “thanked the expressions of solidarity and support expressed” by the journalist, “in the context of the attacks of the concentrated media on his figure.”
In the April 7 letter, Francis expressed his concern for the disinformation campaigns that mark the news agenda in Argentina.
Some Argentine outlets have accused the pope of not speaking out in favor of Ukraine amidst the Russian invasion.
Though Francis has avoided naming Putin, he has spoken about the war an average of four times a week since the conflict began on Feb. 24.
In the midst of this controversy, the Argentine Bishops’ Conference issued a statement in support of the pope.
Bishop Ariel Torrado Mosconi of the Diocese of 9 de Julio wrote the bishops’ response.
“I am unaware of the strange reasons, interests or prejudices for which a large part of the media has focused on the pope’s statements or silences regarding the war in Ukraine. In some cases they even point to him as an accomplice of the crimes and atrocities being committed there!” Torrado writes.
“What is certain is that, in each of his interventions on the subject, the Holy Father has been crystal clear and did not mince words: ‘Crime’, ‘atrocity’, ‘barbarity’, ‘sacrilege’ are forceful words,” Torrado continues. “They reach the minds and hearts of the majorities much more than some of the convoluted and tendentious language of so many ‘opinion makers’ of the moment. It is another matter if the opinions and condemnations of the Holy Father are silenced, biased or manipulated.”
Pope Francis also used the term coprophilia in a 2016 interview with the Belgian Catholic weekly Tertio when speaking about the media.
“I believe that the media should be very clear, very transparent, and not fall prey — without offense, please — to the sickness of coprophilia, which is always wanting to communicate scandal, to communicate ugly things, even though they may be true,” he told the newspaper.