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Pope Francis targeted by hate campaign

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Pope Francis targeted by hate campaign

Posters have appeared around Rome accusing Pope Francis of attacking conservative Catholics.

The posters, which were quickly covered up by the authorities, were put up by mystery activists during the night between Friday and Saturday.

They feature a picture of a stern-faced pope and the slogan: “Where’s your mercy?”

What did the posters say?

The text accused Francis of several interventions targeting conservatives, including what the posters called “the beheading of the Knights of Malta.”

The posters are even more mysterious because sections of the text were written in the working class dialect, Romanesco.

This is spoken only in the Rome area.

City authorities pasted white paper over them, bearing the words “illegal advertising”, as they had been put up without authorisation or the payment of a tax.

Who are the Knights of Malta?

The ancient Catholic order of knights is now a worldwide charity. Its former Grand Master handed in his resignation to the pope last week after a two-month, highly-public feud.

Why have the posters appeared now?

They appeared several hours before the Vatican announced the name of the pope’s personal delegate to the troubled order.

Insiders say conservative Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke has been side-lined.

He has been chaplain of the order since 2014. He has been a frequent critic of the Pope.

In a letter released by the Vatican on Saturday, Francis told Archbishop Angelo Becciu that he would be the “exclusive spokesman” for the pope at the Order.

Elections will be held for a new Grand Master in several months.

What has the Vatican said?

The Vatican has made no comment.

However, Father Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit who is close to the Pope, said in a tweet that they were a sign that Francis was doing a good job and therefore irritating a lot of people.