Pope Francis’ puffer fish photo is real in our hearts

Pope Francis, the 86-year-old leader of the Catholic Church, is an unusually laid-back man. He’s in the habit of staying away from the sacred red sandals and mink trim of his predecessors. In 2017, Vatican tailors and shoemakers, who have made clothes for popes for generations, told Crux Catholic news website that Francis’ refined style – his penchant for what one might call “pope sportsmanship” – threw them into a loop.

So when the image of Pope Francis wearing a jet-white ankle-length hooded coat went viral over the weekend, it was understandable that many thought it was true. A silver cross hangs down on his chest. Zucchetto perched on his head could also be a small rolled beanie. Plus a puffy jacket looks practical; it can get pretty chilly in Vatican City. And hey, it’s 2023 and Pope Francis is the Athlete Pope anyway. And popes, no matter how frugal, lived in the gilded kingdom of Roman Catholic luxury.

Of course, that image is not real. It was created by a 31-year-old Chicago man named Pablo Xavier using Midjourney, an artificial intelligence image generator. Xavier said buzzfeed news that he felt moved when he wrote the Mid-Journey reminder for images when he was stumbling across shrooms: “I try to do funny things or babble art — psychedelic things. I suddenly realized: I should be Pope. Then it came like water: ‘Pope in Balenciaga’s puffer coat, Moncler, walking the streets of Rome, Paris’, stuff like that,” Xavier said. Afterward, he posted it on the Midjourney subreddit titled “The Pope Drip.”

Reddit user supervegeta101 commented on the post: “It’s benign enough to be reasonably realistic. “The Catholic Church is super rich, he is not as orthodox or as old as the other Popes [sic]… I could see Francis drooling madly.

Pope Francis wears his true winter coat in November 2022, during the General Audience in St Peter’s Square.

Mondadori Portfolio / Getty Images

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