Why this picture?  It’s like a meme of its own that, of all things, a picture of the pope in a dripped-out puffer jacket is the reason why AI makes waves even in mainstream media. The most common takes are warnings about what could be possible in the future, calls for regulation, astonishment about believing this could have actually been real, and admiration for the power of the latest AI tools.  „I thought I was immune to being fooled online. Then I saw the pope in a coat“  wrote The Guardian„AI-generated images of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket fool the internet“, said NBC News, while renowned debunking-website Snopes did a fact check.




And even His Holiness himself responded, although without mentioning the images that are showing him totally swagged-out. After Balenciaga Pope went viral he said : “I am certain that this potential will be realized only if there is a constant and consistent commitment on the part of those developing these technologies to act ethically and responsibly.”


The pope also added “we also see them as evidence of the creativity of human beings“, which hits the core of what drove it’s creation: The actual architect of the now infamous Balenciaga Pope image, that were made with Midjourney 5, told Buzzfeed News that, while high on shrooms, he „just thought it was funny to see the Pope in a funny jacket“. But he also added that to him, it was “definitely scary” that “people are running with it and thought it was real without questioning it.“ and that he thinks that AI should be regulated: „It’s definitely going to get serious if they don’t start implementing laws to regulate it.“


L’Osservatore Romano//AP


APA/AFP/Gialuigi Guercia


Ryan Broderick, part of the digital literacy collective „digivoidmedia“ wrote on Twitter: „My theory as to why it’s fooling so many (myself initially included) is that the pope aesthetically exists in the same uncanny valley as most AI art“ – and that might be as close as it gets to understanding why it was THIS pic that sparked the newest debate about the use of AI. Or maybe what also contributed to the image of a „cool pope“, who would wear a puffer jacket like in a rap video, is that he actually did things like signing a Lambo in the past. Also, there were a lot of memes with actual real pictures of him like “pope is dropping bars”.