Pope Francis has won praise around the world for advancing a more humble, tolerant version of Catholicism, but there’s one country that he evidently hasn’t won over. Saudi Arabia banned the August issue of the National Geographic’s Arabic edition, whose cover featured Francis standing in the Sistine Chapel, due to what the magazine said were “cultural reasons.”
“Dear readers in Saudi Arabia, we apologize that you did not receive August’s magazine,” read a statement published on National Geographic’s Arabic-language Twitter account, from the editor-in-chief, Alsaad Omar al-Menhaly. “According to the distribution company, the magazine was refused entry for cultural reasons.”
The very act of putting the Vicar of Christ on a magazine cover could have been controversial enough for senior officials from a country where mosque and state are closely intertwined. But Saudi censors might have also seen dangerous implications for the Wahhabi state in how National Geographic framed its coverage, as the cover referred to Francis leading a “quiet revolution” to reform the Catholic Church.