The head of the Vatican’s communications department has resigned over a scandal about a letter from the retired pope that he mischaracterised in public and then had digitally manipulated in a photograph sent to the media.
The Vatican said Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Monsignor Dario Vigano on Wednesday and named his deputy, Monsignor Lucio Adrian Ruiz, to run the Secretariat for Communications.
The so-called “Lettergate” scandal erupted last week after Monsignor Vigano read aloud part of a private letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI at a book launch for a Vatican-published, 11-volume set of books about Francis’s theology.
Marking Francis’s fifth anniversary as pope, Monsignor Vigano had held up Benedict’s letter as a sign of the continuity between the two popes, to blunt critics who complain that Francis’s mercy-over-morals papacy represents a theological break from Benedict’s doctrinaire term.
Monsignor Vigano did not read the whole letter, including omitting the part where Benedict objected to one of the authors because he had been a longtime critic of Benedict and St John Paul II.
The Associated Press reported that the photograph of the letter that Monsignor Vigano’s office had sent out to the media digitally blurred out the lines where Benedict began to explain that he would not comment on the books.
In his resignation letter dated March 19, Monsignor Vigano said he wanted to step aside so that his presence “wouldn’t delay, damage or block” Francis’s reform of the Vatican’s communications operations.
He acknowledged that his behaviour, despite his intentions, had destabilised the communications reform.
The scandal embarrassed the Vatican and led to accusations that the pope’s own communications office was spreading “fake news”, just weeks after Francis dedicated his annual media message to denouncing “fake news” and the intentional distortion of information.