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Vatican admits altering photo of Benedict's comments on Francis

(Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters)FILE PHOTO : Pope Francis (L) embraces Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as he arrives at the Castel Gandolfo summer residence March 23, 2013.

A Vatican office has admitted that it had altered a photo of a letter written by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI regarding Pope Francis' theological background.

The letter was written on Feb. 7, but the photo was only released on Monday, marking Francis' five-year anniversary as pope.

The Associated Press reported that the alteration had changed the meaning of the letter. In the legible part of the document, Benedict spoke about the "interior unity" between his papacy and his successor, Pope Francis, and described the assertions that the two popes were theologically opposed as "foolish prejudice."

Sections of the letter were reportedly featured at a Vatican news conference on Monday to promote "The Theology of Pope Francis," a series of 11 books written by 11 different authors.

"I applaud this initiative which is intended to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice according to which Pope Francis would be only a practical man devoid of particular theological or philosophical formation, while I would be solely a theoretician of theology who could understand little of the concrete life of a Christian today," Benedict wrote, as reported by Catholic News Agency.

On Thursday, the Vatican admitted that it blurred the two final lines of the page where Benedict explained that the could not comply with the request to contribute to a theological assessment of Francis because he has not read the books.

"Nonetheless, I do not feel that I can write a brief and dense theological page about them because for my whole life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books that I had also truly read," Benedict wrote.

Benedict explained that he felt that he would not be able to read the 11 volumes in the near future due to "physical reasons" and because of his other obligations.

The portion that was blurred out was reportedly read during the Vatican news conference by the prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, Monsignor Dario Viganò. The full letter was published on March 13 by Italian journalist Sandro Magister in his column.

The Vatican has not explained why the picture of the letter was altered but told the Associated Press that it was never intended for full publication.

Vigano, who has been prefect of the Secretariat for Communications since the office was established in 2015, has brought all Vatican media under one entity in an effort to reduce cost and improve efficiency as part of Francis' reforms.

In its message to the church's World Day of Social Communications, the office denounced "fake news" as evil and urged media to seek the truth.

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