It was an April Fool’s joke that really pulled the wool over people’s eyes.
An Italian website ran a comical story this week about Pope Francis owning the Sunseeker megayacht pictured here, yet some readers and even other media alike thought it was real.
On Monday, Liguria Nautica stated that digging into the private life of Pope Francis revealed he was the owner of a Sunseeker 34 Metre Yacht, a megayacht that measures 111’3”. The name of this megayacht should have been Clue #1 that the story was all a big joke: Vatican Fish. Just in case that didn’t give them pause, though, they should have started laughing at the very next sentence. It stated that the megayacht was registered with a Cayman Islands company called Joke Inc.
Despite that, some readers and news outlets truly believed the rest of the article’s claims, such as this eyebrow-raising quote from Pope Francis: “I use it rarely, to bring to fish the bodies of the Swiss Guard.” Perhaps for extra measure, the website added that the Sunseeker megayacht was registered in the Cayman Islands to evade taxes and charters to avoid paying duty on fuel. The story goes on to say that while the Pope was still a Cardinal, he charged “hundreds of thousands of euros for ‘fenders, marine accessories and dock fees’ to the Pontifical budget, and even wrote a letter to an Argentinian newspaper (named El Pescado of Domingo, no less) harshly criticizing the exorbitant docking fees in Italy.
Liguria Nautica published a story explaining the prank the next day, expressing surprise at how many people and news outlets fell for it. Several readers shared the news on their Facebook pages, “accompanied by comments sometimes funny, sometimes bawdy,” the website states. One newspaper even picked up on the story, running it under the headline “the Pope is a ‘Vatican Fish.’”
Liguria Nautica, which pulls an April Fool’s prank—what it calls an ittiodiozia—each year, says this idea came from a friend of one of the editors. “We ended March 31 mulling over what to invent to entertain our readers: who to make the protagonist of our ‘ittiodiozia’? Beppe Grillo? The usual Berlusconi? While we were thinking, from Scotland I got a suggestion: ‘Why don’t you write about the Pope’s luxury yacht?’ wrote a friend of mine.” The editor added, “We are confident that, with the irony that he demonstrated on several occasions, Pope Francis will forgive us for this childish trick!”