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Journo admits making up pope’s quotes

Pope Francis. File photo: Reuters

Pope Francis. File photo: Reuters

Published Nov 21, 2013

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Rome - A senior Italian journalist, who caused a sensation last month when he published an interview with Pope Francis, admitted on Thursday that he did not report the pontiff's words accurately.

“Bear in mind that I did not write some of the things he told me and that he did not say some of the things that I put in quotation marks,” Eugenio Scalfari told journalists at the foreign press club in Rome.

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Last week, Scalfari's October 1 interview was taken down from the Vatican's website. Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said it was “reliable on a general level but not on the level of each individual point analysed.”

The 89-year-old journalist, founder of the centre-left La Repubblica newspaper, defended his work, and said he had never taken notes or used recording devices during interviews, since the start of his career in 1949.

“I try to understand who the person I talk to is, and then I write my questions and their answers in my own words,” Scalfari said. He added that he sent his text to Pope Francis for review before publication, and got a reply that it was “OK.”

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He dismissed suggestions that Francis had disowned the interview, extracting from his briefcase an October 23 letter in which the pontiff told him that he would have liked to continue discussions with him about theological matters.

Scalfari is a staunch atheist. The pope had first contacted him in September, when he replied in writing to questions about faith that the journalist had raised in two editorials.

Some of the remarks Scalfari attributed to the pope caused a stir, such as the dismissal of proselytism - the act of converting people to Catholicism - as “solemn nonsense,” and the idea that “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them.”

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Sapa-dpa

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