VATICAN CITY - Agence France-Presse
Benedict XVI waves during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 7, 2012. AP photo
A fake twitter message ascribed to a top cardinal Thursday announced the death of the pope, a report immediately denied by the Vatican spokesman.
The message, in Italian, said to have been tweeted by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state and the number two at the Vatican, appeared at around 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) announcing: "The Holy Father unexpectedly passed away this afternoon. We announce this with grief and consternation." It was followed by similar tweets in Spanish, English and French.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi immediately denied the reports, terming them "baseless" and "unworthy of attention".
Pope Benedict XVI will turn 85 in April.