The opponents of Pope Francis have indirect links to Vladimir Putin, according to a writer who has been called the Pope’s “favourite journalist”.

Andrea Tornielli made the suggestion in a piece co-written with Giacomo Galeazzi for the Italian newspaper La Stampa, headlined “Catholics who are anti-Francis but love Putin”.

The article quoted sociologist Massimo Introvigne: “It is the mythical idealisation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is presented as a ‘good’ leader in contrast to the ‘bad’ leader, the Pope, because of his stance on homosexual people, Muslims and immigrants. Russian foundations that have strong ties with Putin cooperate with the anti-Francis opposition.”

Mr Tornielli has published a book-length interview with Pope Francis, The Name of God Is Mercy.

The La Stampa piece describes various organisations and individuals who have expressed scepticism about the current pontiff. These include priests and theologians who have asked for clarification of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and writers and journalists such as Alessandro Gnocchi, who believes the Pope “is systematically surrendering the Church to the world; the Church is becoming worldly. His pontificate is based on the brutal handling of power.”

The article also quoted historian Roberto Mattei as saying: “The Church is going through one of the biggest moments of chaos in its history and the Pope is one of the causes … This chaos is above all to do with the Pope’s magisterium. Francis is not the solution but part of the problem.”

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