A social media post claims Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, has asked followers to say a prayer that proclaims their devotion will protect them from viruses.
The March 22 Facebook post, from a user in Papua New Guinea, includes a meme setting out the purported utterance: “I am vaccinated by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, no virus can touch me. Amen.”
The same meme has been shared online in various forms since early in the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes a picture of the Pope with his head bowed below text that says: “The Holy Father, Pope Francis has requested everyone to say this prayer.”
Another version of the post, from July 2020, has been shared more than 1400 times and generated more than 2400 reactions. Many of the comments on both posts echo the affirmation “Amen”.
The words attributed to Pope Francis do not appear among the Catholic leader’s public statements or edicts, while the purported prayer request runs against the Pope’s many statements calling for the widespread use of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Reverend Kevin Waldie, a lecturer in biblical studies at Te Kupenga Catholic Theological College in Auckland, said there is no documentary evidence for the prayer emanating from the Pope, which is an indication that the post should be dismissed as mischievous manipulation.
“What is being claimed does not fit with anything that Pope Francis regularly is reported to have said,” Dr Waldie told AAP FactCheck, adding: “He is totally in favour of the vaccination regime and has made that clear.”
A version of the post from April was declared false here. A search for the phrase “no virus can touch me” on the Vatican website reveals no such papal edict, while the purported prayer also does not appear in the Pontifex twitter feed, which otherwise features prayers daily.
Fr. Roger Landry, an attaché to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, told fact-checking organisation Check Your Fact: “We must pay very close attention to everything Pope Francis says publicly, particularly about COVID-19. As far as I am aware, Pope Francis has never said that. It would also seem to contradict his urging everyone in January to be vaccinated.”
In an interview with Italian media broadcast on January 10, the Pope said: “I believe that ethically everyone must take the vaccine. It is an ethical option, because you risk your health, your life, but you also risk the lives of others.”
The Pope added that he was receiving the vaccine “next week — we will start doing it here, in the Vatican, and I have booked. It must be done”. Both Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI have since received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to reports.
Dr Waldie said the posts were a “nefarious campaign” that could be linked to a literal reading of New Testament passages such as Mark 16:18, which reads: “They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well”.
It was reported in January that the Vatican would launch its own vaccination campaign against COVID-19 for the approximately 450 people resident there. The Pope has also supported waiving patent rights to boost vaccine supplies to poorer countries, calling for “universal access to the vaccine”.
Meanwhile, a Vatican statement on December 21 sought to ease Catholics’ concerns about the ethics of receiving vaccines that were developed using stem cells. The “note”, approved by the Pope, said there was “a moral imperative for the pharmaceutical industry, governments and international organizations to ensure that vaccines, which are effective and safe from a medical point of view, as well as ethically acceptable, are also accessible to the poorest countries in a manner that is not costly for them”.
There is no evidence that the Pope recited the prayer in the post or requested people to repeat it. The suggestion that he believes people can be “vaccinated” by the blood of Jesus and protected from viruses is contradicted by the Pope’s actions and public statements – which include receiving COVID-19 vaccinations and urging others to do the same.
False – Content that has no basis in fact.