Vatican admits altering photo of Pope Benedict's letter about Pope Francis

The Vatican confessed to altering a photo featuring Pope Benedict's letter about Pope Francis. The manipulation resulted in the blurring of details on how the retired pope had not actually read the book about his successor.

(REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)Former pope Benedict is greeted by Pope Francis during a ceremony to mark his 65th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood at the Vatican June 28, 2016.

Pope Benedict praised the book series "The Theology of Pope Francis" in his letter to Monsignor Dario Edoardo Vigano of the Secretariat for Communications. However, the photo given to the media, which featured a stack of books and Benedict's letter in full, had some parts indistinct.

The letter was supposed to silence critics of Pope Francis, who have said in the past that the pontiff did not have theological influence. Benedict, however, stated that his successor upheld "interior unity" with the former pope's beliefs since Francis became the leader of the Catholic Church.

"It contradicts the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation," Benedict wrote.

An unnamed Vatican spokesperson, however, confirmed to the press that the last two lines of the letter had been altered without informing the media. In it, Benedict said that he could not provide a theological assessment of Pope Francis since he did not have time to read the volumes that Vigano's office gave for him to review.

Vigano gave Benedict the books in January. The retired pontiff wrote the letter in February.

Vigano read parts of the letter during the book's launch this March but left out the blurred parts as well. A journalist covering the launch posted the details on his blog and asked for the full text of the letter.

Critics said that the blurring was a violation of photojournalistic standards. It has become an issue among other media outlets relying on Vatican sources for news. The spokesperson defended that the Vatican actually did not intend to release the letter's photo in full.

"The Theology of Pope Francis" provides an in-depth analysis of the pontiff's practices, beliefs and pontification, which the Vatican Publishing House released.