Senior cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church have defended Pope Francis following recent attacks on the pontiff from anonymous conservatives.
Nine cardinals from across the world issued a joint statement on Monday, RNS reports. The statement expressed 'full support for the Pope's work' and 'full backing for him and his teachings'. The cardinals were from Italy, Chile, Austria, India, Germany, Congo, the United States, Australia and Honduras.
Their statement added that the show of support was coming 'in light of recent events'. Vatican sources said this was a direct reference to the attacks that recently been made against Pope Francis.
Francis' increasingly vocal critics take issue with what they see as liberalising positions on divorce, sexuality, climate change, refugees and most recently his side-lining of a senior cleric in the Knights of Malta controversy.
This week Francis was trolled by a 'fake news' edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, which was sent to Vatican priests, bishops, cardinals and journalists. The mock-up front page contained a fake reply by Pope Francis to his critics. Many conservatives felt his exhortation Amoris Laetitia seemed to permit a liberalising on the Church's position of denying communion to divorcees.
On February 4, posters appeared across Rome criticising the pontiff. They challenged the Pope for his involvement in what it called 'the decapitation of the Knights of Malta'. The posters featured a mocking title asking Francis 'Where's your mercy?', in reference to the theme that has largely dominated Francis' papal ministry.