Photo shows Pope Francis visiting Italian saint's room in 2018

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A photo of Pope Francis visiting the monastic cell of a venerated Italian saint in southern Italy has been shared hundreds of times in social media posts that falsely claim it shows the 86-year-old pontiff in his bedroom. Since he was elected pope in 2013, Francis has opted to stay at a modest guesthouse rather than the lavish papal palace in the Vatican.

"The pope's simple bed chamber, where he leads 1.4 billion Catholics," reads the Tamil-language caption of a photo shared on Facebook here on April 22, 2023.

It appears to show Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, standing in a small room, simply furnished with a bed, sink and chairs.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on May 9, 2023

The same photo was also shared hundreds of times on Facebook here, here and here.

The photo, however, does not show Francis in his bedroom.

Visit to San Giovanni Rotondo

A reverse image search on Google found this photo of the pope in southern Italy, released by the Vatican Press Office on March 17, 2018 (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo shared in the false Facebook post (left) and the photo as it appears in the AFP archive (right):

Screenshot comparison of the photo shared in the false Facebook post (left) and the photo as it appears in the AFP photo archive (right)

Its caption reads: "This handout picture released by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis visiting the cell of St Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) on March 17, 2018 during a pastoral visit in San Giovanni Rotondo.

"Pio was revered during his lifetime (1887-1968) and his popularity has grown since his death, particularly in Italy, where mini-statues and pictures of the mystical Capuchin friar are ubiquitous."

Padre Pio lived most of his life in the Capuchin convent of San Giovanni Rotondo, which is now a sanctuary where his body is on display (archived links here and here).

Pio was reputed by believers to have been able to levitate, read minds and miraculously appear in foreign lands while remaining at the same time in his friary.

He regularly spoke of having both heavenly and diabolic visions and was frequently associated with apparently miraculous recoveries among the seriously ill (archived link).

Pope's residence

Pope Francis has a reputation as a humble pastor who has shunned many of the perks associated with high office in the Catholic Church (archived link).

It was reported in 2013 that the pontiff had decided against moving into the lavish papal palace in the Vatican, choosing instead to stay in the more modest accommodation of Casa Santa Marta, a residence for visiting clergy and lay people (archived link).

Photos of his residence in Casa Santa Marta, which hosted the pope and other cardinals during the papal conclave that elected him, were released by the Vatican Press Office in 2013, as seen here and here (archived links here and here).