While the motives of the alleged hacker/hackers involved in this case are still unclear, there is precedent for hackers targeting Vatican buildings due to Pope Francis’ public statements. One example is that a Turkish hacker was credited with hacking the Vatican website in 2015. This happened because Pope Francis, in his homily, described the 1915 massacres of Armenians by Turks, as a “genocide.”

The apparent attack is coming a day after Russian leaders had criticized Pope Francis’ remarks about Russia’s war in Ukraine. The interview saw the pope call Ukraine “martyred” and name two Russian ethnic groups — the Chechens, and the Buryati — as the “generally the most cruel” victims of the conflict.

Other hackers have been attracted by the Vatican’s old main website. Anonymous’s Italian branch used a simple hacking technique called “denial of Service” to take down the Vatican’s website. The site was artificially flooded by traffic to overload it.

Recent reports indicate that in 2020, Chinese state backed hackers attacked the Vatican computer networks as well as other Catholic targets to try to give China an advantage when it came to renewing a provisional agreement.

Experts claim that Russia is using hacking and cyberwarfare to discredit Ukraine in its conflict. Russia also has a history in hacking Catholic institutions. Reports in 2018 revealed that Russian hackers had accessed the email accounts of Orthodox and Catholic religious leaders who were connected to Ukraine.

Courtney Mares contributed the following story.

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