The Vatican announced today it would be using “systematic surveillance activities” to protect images of Pope Francis and the Holy See in order to prevent them being illegally used.

In a statement issued Feb. 22, the Vatican said in order to make “its protective action more effective”, the Secretariat of State “will effect systematic surveillance activities apt to monitor the ways in which the image of the Holy Father and the coats of arms of the Holy See are used, [and] if necessary intervene with appropriate action.”

The statement said the Secretariat of State has the task of “protecting the image of the Holy Father, so that his message can reach the faithful intact and that his person not be exploited.”

The Vatican added that its task is also to apply “appropriate regulatory instruments on an international level” to ensure the Holy See’s “symbols and coats of arms” are protected.

The move follows hundreds of fly posters put up across Rome earlier this month that showed a stern image of the Holy Father and words critical of him underneath.  It also comes after a parody cover of L’Osservatore Romano was disseminated containing Pope Francis’ possible responses to doctrinal issues. Both caused considerable concern in the Vatican. 

But the deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, Paloma Ovejero, told reporters Feb. 22 that the statement was not about these incidents but rather to do with the unlawful economic exploitation for unauthorized profit of the image of the Pope or the coats of arms of the Holy See.

Ovejero's comments were reinforced by a follow-up statement by the Holy See, stressing that today's announcement did not “originate from any recent news story”.