ROME — The Vatican has issued a stronger statement to refute claims alleging that Pope Francis has said Jesus Christ is not God, as there have been complaints of an earlier “tepid” response.
Last Wednesday, Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari published an essay in La Repubblica newspaper declaring, among other things, that the pope told him he believes that Jesus of Nazareth was an exceptional man but not God incarnate.
Scalfari wrote that the pope had told him that Christ’s words on the cross “are the proof that Jesus of Nazareth, once he became a man, even a man of exceptional virtue, was in no way a God.”
Initially, the papal spokesman said that Scalfari’s declaration was a “free interpretation” of the pope’s words and could not be taken as a verbatim quotation, without, however, denying the substance of the claim.
The statement by papal spokesman Matteo Bruni reads:
As has already been stated on other occasions, the words that Dr. Eugenio Scalfari attributes in quotation marks to the Holy Father during talks with him cannot be considered a faithful account of what was actually said, but represent rather a personal and free interpretation of what he heard, as is quite evident from what was written today about the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Following reports that the Vatican’s denial of statements attributed to the pope had been ambiguous, Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications, issued a second statement at the end of the daily briefing on the Vatican’s Synod for the Amazon.
Ruffini said that despite Matteo Bruni’s “clear denial,” he “would like to reiterate that the Holy Father never said what Scalfari wrote that he said.”
“Therefore, both the quoted remarks, and the free reconstruction and interpretation by Dr Scalfari of the colloquies — which go back to more than two years ago — cannot be considered a faithful account of what was said by the Pope,” he said.
“And that will be found rather throughout the Church’s magisterium and Pope Francis’s own, on Jesus: true God and true man,” he concluded.
Ruffini’s statement Friday represents the clearest denial to date of Scalfari’s frequent assertions regarding the pope, who has granted the journalist a number of interviews.
In March 2018, for instance, when Scalfari reported that the pope had told him that he does not believe in the existence of hell, the Vatican released a carefully worded statement that did not deny the substance of the claims.
What is reported by the author “is the result of his reconstruction, in which the pope’s exact words are not cited. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the Holy Father’s words,” the Vatican statement read.