Vatican confirms Scalfari interview was “an after-the-fact reconstruction”

Questions raised about the accuracy of the text published in La Repubblica

After days of speculation about the trustworthiness of the interview between Pope Francis and Eugenio Scalfari published in La Repubblica earlier this week, the Vatican has confirmed that Scalfari “did not tape his interview with Pope Francis, nor did he take notes, so the text was an after-the-fact reconstruction.”

The day after the interview’s publication, Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli questioned some of its details, in particular an anecdote reportedly told by Pope Francis about a mystical experience after his election as pontiff but before his acceptance of the office. Scalfari quotes the Holy Father as saying, “Before I accepted I asked if I could spend a few minutes in the room next to the one with the balcony overlooking the square.” Tornielli reports that not only is there no such room off the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, but that several cardinal electors told him that Francis did not retire before his acceptance. Tornielli concluded that the interview was “not an exact word-for-word reconstruction of dialogue with Scalfari.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York told the National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen that Cardinal Bergoglio “never left the Sistine Chapel before accepting.”

Allen reports that Vatican spokesman Father Thomas Rosica issued a statement via email today in which he states that the Scalfari interview risked “either missing some key details or conflating various moments or events recounted during the oral interview,” as Scalfari “did not tape his interview with Pope Francis, nor did he take notes, so the text was an after-the-fact reconstruction.”

Earlier this week, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, emphasized to reporters that Pope Francis’ interview with Scalfari “is not a magisterial document.” While he cautioned against over-interpreting the Holy Father’s “conversational” and “colloquial” statements, he did not indicate that there was anything substantively inaccurate in the text published by La Repubblica.

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About Catherine Harmon 577 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.