VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Circulating photos of Pope Francis partying are FAKE, AI-generated

Photos show Pope Francis drinking and kissing a woman at a party.

Facebook page Biblia Ang Basihan sa kamatuoran 01/10/2024 Fake

These photos are created through the generative artificial intelligence program Midjourney. The images were first uploaded by a Facebook user in a group for AI-generated content.

Several images showing Pope Francis at a party are circulating among Filipino netizens on Facebook (FB). These photos were created through artificial intelligence (AI). 

On Jan. 10, an FB page uploaded six photos of the head of the Catholic Church drinking alcohol and even kissing a woman at a party. The post bore the caption: 

Kun tinuod pa kini nga tawo sa Dios dili unta kini makita sa katawhan… Hinaut nga dili kini tinuod, kay kun tinuod, siya gayud ang giingon sa 2 tisalonica 2:3-4 (If this man of God is still real in this world it wouldn’t be seen by mankind… Hopefully this isn’t true, for if it is true, he is really what it says in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).” 

These are fake and the photos originated from an FB group where users share AI-generated content. 

These circulating photos of Pope Francis at a party are fake. They were created through a generative artificial intelligence program.

On Jan. 1, FB user Ed Haas uploaded the six photos as part of a compilation. The post’s caption read: 

“Partying with Pope Francis on New Year’s Eve.” 

The user confirmed in a reply to a netizen’s comment that the photos were created through the sixth version of the generative AI program Midjourney.

These were uploaded onto the FB group Cursed AI where users can freely post their AI-generated content.

Beware, these creations may haunt your dreams and unravel your sanity. Step into the eerie world of AI-generated cursed art, where machines possess powers to create twisted and terrifying masterpieces,” a part of FB group’s About section said. 

Most of the photos featured distorted or unnatural hands and body parts, a common error seen in AI-generated images.

VERA Files Fact Check also ran the photos in the AI-detector tool Hive Moderation. Its results show that all photos except one are likely to be A.I. 

Screenshot by VERA Files

Several netizens who believed the photos to be true criticized the pope while others pointed out that they were created by AI. 

Other AI-generated images of the pontiff have previously circulated and been debunked by fact-checking organizations. In his message during the World Day of Peace last Jan. 1, Pope Francis himself warned of the risks of AI and urged the global community to “work together in order to adopt a binding international treaty that regulates the development and use of artificial intelligence in its many forms.” 

FB page Biblia Ang Basihan sa kamatuoran’s (created on May 18, 2022 as Biblia Ang Basihan) post has 290 reactions, 764 comments and 1,000 shares as of writing.

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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)