Pope Mocked in Controversial Cartoon

Country: Italy

Date of incident: January 10, 2011

A satirical cartoon depicting Pope Benedict XVI was shown in Italy’s public television RAI2. In the cartoon, the Pope says about Silvio Berlusconi since he “likes minors, he can always become a priest”. This caused quite an uproar as it was considered as defamatory.

On January 20, 2011, Italy's public television RAI2 broadcast the first episode of the new television season of Annozero, a political talk show hosted by Michele Santoro. The episode was entitled "The fiancé of Italy" and refers ironically to Silvio Berlusconi’s scandal involving a 17-year-old model. Towards the end of the episode, as usual, Italian journalist and satirical cartoonist Vauro Senesi showed some of his cartoons on the theme of the broadcast. Among the various satirical cartoons, one was depicting Pope Benedict XVI.

The text of the offensive cartoon was divided in two parts: the title – ‘The Vatican is hoping for a conversion’, and below - the Pope was pictured as saying: ‘If he [Silvio Berlusconi] likes minors, he can always become a priest!’ [In original in Italian: ‘Il Vaticano spera in una conversione’, ‘Se a lui piacciono tanto minorenni può sempre farsi prete!’]

The satirical sentence, which alludes to the issue of pedophilia in the clergy, was judged by the Church as going well over the boundary of acceptibility. Director of Pontifex Dr Bruno Volpe filed a complaint to the legal authority against Vauro Senesi, Michele Santoro and the president of the state television Paolo Garimberti regarding the insult to the Pope, and submitted it to the Police Station of Bari. In the days following the program the newspaper of the Bishops’ Conference also accused Santoro’s program of disgracing priests.


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