A false quote first attributed to Pope Francis two years ago is once again going viral thanks to a mix of apocalyptic preachers, followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and pro-Trump Facebook groups and pages.
Over the past month, several religious websites have published articles claiming Pope Francis said the US needs to be overseen by a world government "for their own good." He never said that. But people preaching about the end times and deep state corruption have latched onto it and helped it spread on Facebook and Twitter.
An article, "Pope Francis: World Government Must Rule U.S. ‘For Their Own Good,’" was published on the website of fundamentalist preacher Jan Markell in January and has so far attracted more than 205,000 Facebook shares, reactions, and comments. Markell, who oversees the Olive Tree Ministries, has preached against the evils of Harry Potter, Pokemon Go, Oprah, and sharia law. In a recent YouTube video, she said that any attempt to implement a one world government would be overseen by the antichrist.
BuzzFeed News emailed Markell to ask her about the article's false quote and headline. "No comment," she replied.
The fake pope quote is falsely attributed to a 2017 interview he gave to Italian newspaper La Repubblica. In the article, Francis talks about the need for Europe to come under a "federated" government, and he warns of "very dangerous alliances between powers that have a distorted view of the world." He cited "America and Russia, China and North Korea, Putin and Assad in the war in Syria."
But Francis didn't say anything about a one world government, or about the US needing to be overseen by one.
The story from Olive Tree has taken hold among followers of the convoluted QAnon conspiracy theory. They believe that a person ("Q") with high national security clearance is using a message board frequented by internet trolls to reveal details of a non-existent massive conspiracy involving the deep state, Clintons, and other figures engaged in supposed pedophilia and mass corruption.
Travis View, a QAnon researcher and co-host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, told BuzzFeed News that "the Vatican and Catholic Church are certainly part of the QAnon conspiracy theory."
"Q has occasionally pointed to the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandals, which plays into the theory that the 'Cabal' is running a secret, worldwide human trafficking and pedophile ring," he said.
This story spread thanks to pro-Trump Facebook pages and groups. A Facebook page called "American White History Month 2" — which features a photo of Trump standing in front of a border wall as its profile picture — generated more than 13,000 engagements for the story. The story was also posted to at least two QAnon Facebook groups.
One person who shared it in a large pro-Trump group also displays a several QAnon memes on their profile. One is a collage that displays Pope Francis, George Soros, Barack Obama, lizard people, and Hillary Clinton, among other people and symbols connected to the conspiracy theory:
Articles with the false Pope Francis quote have been online since at least the summer of 2017. The story on Markell's site linked back to another version of the article published on explainlife.com, which itself appears to be copied from an article on amredeemed.com first published in 2017. Completing the cycle is the fact that amredeemed.com copied its version from notoriously unreliable site newspunch.com, which used to be called Your Newswire.
Many other sites have copied the article over the ensuing two years, but none appear to have gained the level of traction on social media as the version published by Olive Tree Ministries.
Added reference and link to the newspunch.com article.