Conspiracy Theories Fly on Social Media After the Vatican Appears to Go Dark


Jan. 11 2021, Updated 12:56 p.m. ET

was the vatican raided
Source: Getty Images

Social media users certainly have plenty of questions about Vatican City right now. Did the Vatican have a power outage? Did the Vatican go dark? Was the Vatican raided?

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We’re happy to report that the answers appear to be no, no, and no, in that order. Instead, it seems conspiracy theorists are having a field day with an underexposed webcam feed from St. Peter’s Square. And they’re even connecting this alleged “blackout” to those nagging claims of fraud in the U.S. election…

Did the Vatican have a power outage?

st peters square
Source: Getty Images

Social media users allege there was a power outage in Vatican City on Jan. 9, sharing dark screenshot images from live YouTube feeds from the scene.

Many of the screenshots they’ve shared, however, show electric lights illuminated — just not very visible — in and around St. Peter's Basilica, suggesting the “blackout” was just underexposed photography from the webcam. (Not to mention the fact that web cams are typically connected to the power grid.)

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Indeed, Mountain Butorac, a tour guide based near St. Peter’s Basilica, told the Catholic News Agency that there was no “massive blackout” at the Vatican and that camera exposure on the live feeds can change based on local weather conditions.

“In any case, you can see the lights are very much on,” he added, “You can see the dome, you can see the lights of the colonnade, you can see some office/apartment lights, you can see the nativity lights, you can see the Christmas tree star.”

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And EWTN Vatican correspondent Colm Flynn told the agency that there was no noticeable power outage over the weekend: “I didn’t notice any power outage across the weekend. I was at home [close to the Vatican] on Saturday most of the evening and there was no power cut.”

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Did the Vatican go dark in 2021?

There’s been no official confirmation about a blackout in Vatican City, as the International Business Times reports.

Nevertheless, former Republican Congressional candidate Anthony Aguero tweeted about the reported blackout, as did former Republican Congressional candidate Mike Detmer.

Other Twitter users linked the Vatican blackout reports to the recent blackouts in Pakistan and the (still unsubstantiated) allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. 

Amid the Vatican blackout reports, a Twitter user also shared video of Apple Maps that appears to show that a “majority of roads in Rome [were] closed” that night — including many thoroughfares surrounding Vatican City — though the iPhone screen recording is not dated.

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Was the Vatican raided?

Now here’s where the theories get really wacky. As the Catholic News Agency reports, a website called Conservative Beaver claimed that Pope Francis was arrested on Jan. 9 “in connection with an 80-count indictment of charges,” including human trafficking, incest, possession of drug paraphernalia, and felony fraud — and that “military officers, Italian police, and their Sex Crimes Unit” cut power to the Vatican to cloak their actions.

Of course, no reputable news outlet is running that story, and Pope Francis — looking very much not arrested — delivered his usual Angelus address in a livestream from the library of the Apostolic Palace on Sunday, Jan. 10, as CNA notes.

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