Fact Check

Video Does Not Show Refugee or Migrant Assaulting Catholic Priest, Nor Was It Recorded in France

"This is the destruction of Western civilization," tweeted Twitter user Stew Peters, who misleadingly claimed the assailant was an "African migrant."

Published Feb. 21, 2023

 (Twitter)
Image courtesy of Twitter
Claim:
A video recorded in France shows a refugee or migrant striking a Catholic priest during mass and stealing a Bible.
Context

The video was captured in Georgetown, Guyana, not France. Further, no reporting referred to the assailant as being a refugee or a migrant. Rather, local news stories said the man was believed to be "destitute" and "under the influence."

On Feb. 19, 2023, a video was shared on Twitter by user @Izuna99 with the misleading caption, "France: black 'refugee' interrupts Mass, assaults priest, and steals the Holy Bible."

By Feb. 20, other Twitter accounts were reposting the same video.

For example, a user named Stew Peters (@realstewpeters) incorrectly captioned the video with, "African migrant interrupts Mass, assaults priest, and steals the Holy Bible in France. This is the destruction of Western civilization."

A user named David Vance (@DVATW), who we've mentioned in other reporting before, also reposted the video with one misleading word: "France."

BBC disinformation journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh appeared to be the first person to research the matter and report the truth on Twitter.

Sardarizadeh tweeted, "A viral video has racked up millions of views on Twitter, claiming to show a black migrant assault and rob a priest during mass in France. The incident happened in Georgetown, Guyana, in November 2020, involving a man 'of unsound mind' and potentially 'under the influence.'"

On Nov. 7, 2020, Demerara Waves, described as "Guyana's first and still leading source for major breaking news and news updates," reported nothing about the man being a "refugee" or a "migrant." This part of the claim appeared to have been made up out of whole cloth:

A man, believed to be of unsound mind walked up to Roman Catholic Bishop, Francis Alleyne and assaulted and robbed him while he was presiding over Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Brickdam, Georgetown.

Armed with what appeared to be a sharp pointed object, the man walked up to Bishop Alleyne and Deacon Francis. He then grabbed the Bishop's right hand and dragged off the ring before grabbing two other items including the Mass Book.

The incident unfolded on Facebook as the Bishop and Deacon Francis were celebrating Mass.

Stabroek News later reported that the assailant was believed to be "destitute" and "under the influence."

The Catholic Arena Twitter account correctly captioned a longer version of the video back on Nov. 10, 2020.

We previously published stories about other rumors that falsely claimed to have involved France in one way or another.

For example, in 2022, social media users shared a photograph and claimed that it showed hundreds of white electric cars that were abandoned in France because the cost of replacing the batteries was too expensive. However, the picture was captured in China, and the reason the cars were abandoned was because the electric car-sharing company went bankrupt due to a lack of demand from consumers.

Sources

"Catholic Bishop Believes Church Service Assailant Was under the Influence." Stabroek News, 15 Nov. 2020, https://www.stabroeknews.com/2020/11/15/news/guyana/catholic-bishop-believes-church-service-assailant-was-under-the-influence/.

Chabrol, Denis. "Roman Catholic Bishop Assaulted, Robbed by Mentally Ill Man during Mass." Demerara Waves Online News- Guyana, 7 Nov. 2020, https://demerarawaves.com/2020/11/07/roman-catholic-bishop-assaulted-robbed-by-mentally-ill-man-during-mass/.

Sardarizadeh, Shayan. "A Viral Video Has Racked up Millions of Views on Twitter, Claiming to Show a Black Migrant Assault and Rob a Priest during Mass in France.  The Incident Happened in Georgetown, Guyana, in November 2020, Involving a Man 'of Unsound Mind' and Potentially 'under the Influence.'" Twitter, 21 Feb. 2023, https://twitter.com/Shayan86/status/1628071464061612041.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.

Article Tags