The veteran Italian journalist who scooped the Vatican by releasing an embargoed draft of a major document on the environment penned by Pope Francis, has been given the papal boot.
On Tuesday, the Holy See suspended the press credentials of Sandro Magister, a longtime Vatican correspondent for the Italian newsweekly L’Espresso and whose byline appeared on a story tied to the paper’s publication of the draft on Monday. In it, Francis takes climate change deniers to task, calling for swift action to curb global warming. The document had been embargoed by the Vatican until Thursday.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, posted a letter on the press office’s bulletin board on Tuesday announcing the suspension, according to the Associated Press and members of the Vatican Press Corps. In the letter, Lombardi called the publication “incorrect,” noting that it created a “source of great inconvenience” for those journalists who did respect the embargo, which was in effect until Thursday at noon Rome time.
Reached by text message, Magister pointed the finger at his editor. “Let me just say that the ‘scoop’ wasn’t mine,” Magister replied. “It belongs to the editor in chief of L’Espresso. He had the draft and published it. I only wrote the introduction.”
Magister declined to comment on his accreditation being pulled.
The Holy See takes embargoes – especially on papal documents — quite seriously. The leak also sparked debate in Italian and Catholic circles about what constitutes a scoop. Some argued that the document published was an unfinished draft obtained from a source, and therefore did not technically fall under the embargo anyway.
Referring to her colleague’s suspension, Stefania Maurizi, a journalist with L’Espresso, tweeted: “Press Freedom?” Grant Gallicho at the Catholic publication Commonweal wrote, “Magister didn’t commit any journalistic sin. He got a legitimate scoop, decided making the Holy See Press Office crazy was a price worth paying, and wrote it up.”
Others were less kind. Catholic and social blogger Patrice de Plunkett sent a celebratory tweet after the suspension, cheering the “end of a bergogliophobe troll.” And some quarters of the Vatican press corps charged L’Espresso with having an agenda of its own.
In the Vatican Insider, a Rome-based Web site on the Holy See, journalist Giacomo Galeazzi described the move as a “pre-emptive strike” against the pope – suggesting L’Espresso was effectively cooperating with his enemies inside the Vatican walls.
“Inside the Vatican they consider the release of the draft to be the act of conservative circles, external and internal to the Roman Curia” who are opposed to Pope Francis, Galeazzi wrote, referring to the powerful bureaucrats within the Holy See.
Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.