Pope Francis’ Vatican website goes down in suspected hack

Pope Francis - Anadolu Agency
Pope Francis - Anadolu Agency

The Vatican's official website has been knocked offline in a suspected cyber attack, just days after Pope Francis was criticised by Moscow for his latest condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The web page for the Vatican, where worshippers can find prayers, letters and papal announcements, was taken offline on Wednesday. Parts of the site remained down on Thursday morning, returning an error message to visitors.

The attack comes after Pope Francis appeared to blame Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. His previous remarks on the war have been more muted.

There is currently no indication of who was to blame for the apparent cyber attack.

A spokesman for the Holy See, Matteo Bruni, told Reuters: “Technical investigations are ongoing due to abnormal attempts to access the site.”

On Monday, Pope Francis told religious publication America Magazine: “When I speak about Ukraine, I speak of a people who are martyred.

“Certainly, the one who invades is the Russian state. This is very clear.

“Sometimes I try not to specify so as not to offend and rather condemn in general, although it is well known whom I am condemning.”

Pope Francis, 85, has active social media accounts across the web, Tweeting from the account @Pontifex. The Argentinian pope is regarded as a more liberal reformer of the Vatican and known for outspoken remarks on climate change.

It is not the first time the Pope has been the target of cyber attacks.

In 2020, cyber security researchers Recorded Future uncovered a Chinese cyber attack on the Vatican's internal computer network. The attack used a “Trojan” malware to infiltrate the Holy See's systems, which was woven into a letter sent to a Vatican official in Hong Kong.

When the note was opened, it allowed hackers to try to access private information on the Catholic Church's plans for negotiations with the Chinese Catholic Church, which has links to Beijing.

In 2019, the Vatican also launched a Rosary app for tracking prayers, which was subjected to a hack of users' details within minutes.