UK’s Mirror Incompetently Botches Easter Pope Story

Why did the UK's Mirror incompetently botch a story about the pope on Easter Sunday?
Why did the UK's Mirror incompetently botch a story about the pope on Easter Sunday? (photo: Register Files)

On Easter Sunday Matt Drudge was carrying the following headline:

POPE: Defeat ISIS with ‘weapons of love’ . . .

The link was to this story by the UK’s Mirror, which itself carried the headline:

Pope Francis says defeat Islamic State 'with weapons of love' during Easter message

The headline is utterly false—as well as an example of incompetent journalism.

The headline makes it look like the pope was advocating some kind of nonviolent approach to ISIS, and that’s simply not what he was doing.

Here are the facts . . .


1) What message was the story referring to?

Although the story did not say so, it was the pope’s Easter Urbi et Orbi message.

Every Christmas and Easter, pope release an Urbi et Orbi (Latin, “to the city and the world”) message. It addresses concerns in the city of Rome and the world at large.

The official English translation of this message is not yet out, but the Italian original is here.

And here’s a Google Translate version.

UPDATE: Here's a translation provided by Edward Pentin.


2) Did the pope say anything about Iraq?

Yes. He mentioned it twice, first saying that he hoped the “message of life” would “promote a fruitful exchange between peoples and cultures in other areas of the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Yemen and Libya.”

Then he expressed closeness to the victims of terrorism “in different parts of the world, as has happened in recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Iraq.”


3) But he didn’t mention the Islamic State?

Nope. Not once.


4) Does he say anyone should defeat anybody with “weapons of love”?

Nope. Not once.


4) Does he mention “weapons of love”?

Yes. He says that “With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death.”


5) Are you quoting from Google Translate for that?

Nope. I’m quoting from the Mirror article itself.


6) Wait. You mean the Mirror article itself quotes the pope saying God (not humans) has (not should) defeated evil and selfishness (not the Islamic State) and in the past (not the future)? That’s completely different than what its headline says!

That’s right.


7) Who writes newspaper headlines?

They can be suggested by the authors of the pieces, but ultimate control of them is in the hands of editors—who frequently write them.


8) Who wrote and edited this piece?

The piece was written by John Shammas, whose Twitter profile describes him as “Half Irish, Half Iraqi.”

I have not yet been able to establish who edited the piece or whether the author or editor wrote the headline.


9) Can we let the author off on the grounds that the editor may have written the headline?

Unfortunately, no. The first paragraph of the article reads:

Pope Francis has urged the world in his Easter message to use the "weapons of love" to combat the evil of "blind and brutal violence" following the tragic attacks in Brussels.

That is not what the pope said. The only time he referred to anyone using “weapons of love” was when he applied this metaphor to God’s action in the past.


10) Regardless of how the blame should be apportioned between the reporter and the editor, can this be chalked up to anything less than journalistic incompetence?

No. Both the article and the headline lead the reader to think that the pope said something which he did not say.

They both take a phrase that the pope used to describe God’s past action and made it appear that the pope applied it to man’s future actions.

That’s at least incompetence.

It may even be worse than incompetence. It may be malfeasance.


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