A British Catholic journalist has said she was astonished when major world news outlets mistook an Vatican April Fool’s report she wrote for a genuine news story.
The Guardian, which this week won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting of Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leaks, was one of the organisations that picked up the hoax story that the Vatican employed a hawk called Sylvia to protect the doves periodically released by the Pope.
The reports are believed to have originated with an Agence France-Presse (AFP) story, which was then published by dozens of major news organisations. AFP withdrew the story as soon as it realised the mistake and the Guardian removed the report from its website promptly.
Josephine Siedlecka, founder of Independent Catholic News (ICN), said: “We have often done April Fool’s stories in the past but this one has been by far the most succesful. I’m astonished people fell for it. I thought it was too obvious.”
The story on ICN claimed that the hawk, with a wingspan of 47 inches, was brought in after two doves released by children in St Peter’s Square in January were set upon by a crow and a seagull. According to the joke report a spokesman said that the hawk would “act as an escort and protector” to the papal doves.
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