The recent visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Vatican inspired pro-Kremlin media to come up with a rather fawning fake, that Pope Francis presented Putin with the Guardian Angel of Peace medal. The sources for this fake are none other than the Putin-faithful president of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov , who announced the fake in his Telegram account and Dmitri Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, who confirmed the fake, that Putin had indeed received a special medal from the Pape himself. Not only is this medal very special, the fake goes, but it is awarded only once in a hundred years.

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Well it is very special indeed, so special that it doesn’t even exist. There is no Guardian Angel of Peace Medal. The Pope did however call on Putin to act towards peace and reminded him of how destructive war is.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, RBK, Russia’s Defense Ministry official television channel Zvezda, EurAsia Daily, Rossiyskaya gazeta, News24UA, NTV, the Interfax news agency all featured this fake story.

According to the Russian media, the Guardian Angel of Peace medal is awarded by the Papal office once every hundred years and in the last 462 years Putin has become only the fifth person to receive the medal in recognition of his efforts towards establishing peace. Some actually turned to presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov for confirmation of this alleged great Vatican honor, which Mr. Peskov readily provided by saying “the Pope did give Putin this medal”.

These claims were quickly debunked in Radio Liberty’s Kavkaz Realities program. Media and communications expert Olena Kulygina also pointed out in a Facebook post that there was no such thing as a Guardian Angel of Peace medal, the entire story is fake that even some Ukrainian media copied and pasted as a news item without question.

Yes Putin did get a medal from the Pope, but it was an ordinary commemorative medal and not a special award. Vatican News (in Russian) writes about the gift exchange that took place between the Pope and Putin: “The Holy Father presented the Russian President with a commemorative medal dedicated to the centenary of the end of World War I as well as copies of his message on World Peace Day on January 1, 2019”.

In July 2018 the international Catholic weekly newspaper The Tablet described the new papal medal released to commemorate the sixth year of Pope Francis’ pontificate and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The medal, aimed at reminding people of the disaster of war, is inscribed with a quote “Nothing is lost with peace, everything can be lost with war” – proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on Vatican Radio in August 1939. Pope Francis has often used this phrase in his speeches calling an end to armed conflicts and pace in the world.

Website screenshot The Tablet

Papal medals first emerged in the 15th century to commemorate important events, the Tablet reports. Now they are made annually to celebrate each individual year of a pontificate and special occasions such as foreign visits. The medals are also given as gifts to important figures during papal visits and to cardinals and employees of the Roman Curia. They can also be bought by collectors with a limited number produced in gold, silver and bronze.

To claim that the medal is a special award is completely inaccurate.

The front of this commemorative medal depicts a dove emitting rings of light that illuminate the papal coat of arms. This image, according to an official description of the medal, represents the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives the Church to guide it in its mission.

The other side shows the struggle between war and peace, a mother hugging a child and an olive branch, while at the bottom barbed wire encages a young boy. At the center is a poppy, symbolizing those who have lost their lives in wars. 

The medal, designed by Chiara Principe, was officially released on 26 July, 2018.

The Vatican has called for peace in the world countless times. Pope Francis regularly speaks about countries where war is being waged, including Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. During his recent meeting with the leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Pope Francis pointed out that a hybrid war is being waged in Donbas, filled with propaganda lies and manipulation.