Posters of a stern-looking Pope Francis
appeared on walls around Rome on Saturday,
condemning his actions against some conservative
Catholics and asking, "Where is your mercy?"
Written in local Roman dialect, the posters lamented that
the Pope had "removed priests; decapitated the Knights
of Malta" and "ignored Cardinals," echoing some of the
major complaints some conservative Catholics have
about Pope Francis' recent decisions.
The posters were not signed by any group.
On the day the posters appeared, the Pope finalized a
months-long battle with the Knights of Malta by
appointing a Special Delegate from the Vatican and
giving him "all necessary powers" to help renew the
traditional Catholic Order.
The Knights of Malta have a unique "sovereign" standing
within the Catholic Church, similar to that of a separate
country, and they had contested the legality of the Pope's
intervention into their order.
Last month the Pope forced the resignation of the head of
the Knights of Malta, former Grand Master Matthew
Festing, who had publicly opposed him.
The reference in the poster to "decapitation of the Knights
of Malta" refers to this battle.
Criticism of the pontiff
Within a few hours of their appearance, the posters had
been taken down or covered over by "Illegal Posting"
signs from the City of Rome.
Conservative criticism of Pope Francis has intensified
since November, when he refused to answer an official
letter sent to him by four cardinals. The letter criticized
his move to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to
That issue has divided many in the Catholic Church and
has left bishops around the world arguing about the
Pope's intentions and how to implement the directive.
One of the signers of that letter, known as a dubia, was
conservative US Cardinal Raymond Burke, whom the
Pope removed as the head of the Vatican's Supreme
Court in 2014 and named as his papal liaison to the
Knights of Malta.
On Saturday, the Pope once again effectively sidelined
Cardinal Burke by appointing Archbishop Angelo Becciu
as his "special delegate" to the Knights and his
"exclusive spokesman" in relations between the order
and the Vatican.