A photo appearing to show a Catholic priest standing at an altar has been shared thousands of times in social media posts in Hindu-majority India about a “Father Anthony Fernandes” who converted to Hinduism. The picture, however, has been shared in a false context. It shows a scene from a Polish TV series, and the person in the picture is the actor who plays the series’ protagonist.
The picture, which was shared more than 3,200 times and “liked” over 10,000 times, was posted on Twitter here on September 10, 2022.
Its caption reads: “A Goan Catholic priest from a family of 400 years in Xianity, Fr Anthony Fernandes, became a Hindu. The Jesuit priest was converted at a public ceremony at Ram Krishna Temple in d ancient Hindu city.”
It adds that the priest said: “Today is a day of great joy for me, as I’m no more attached to any church.”
The picture circulated as right-wing calls for India to be declared a Hindu nation and Hindu supremacy to be enshrined in law grow rapidly louder.
Hindus make up around 80 percent of India’s total population, according to an analysis by the US-based Pew Research Center that was published in September 2021.
But the picture has been shared in a false context.
While there was an April 2001 report about a Catholic priest called Father Anthony Fernandes converting to Hinduism, the picture shared in social media posts in September 2022 shows an unrelated scene from a Polish TV series called “Father Matthew”.
Scene from TV series
A keyword and reverse image search found the picture on the website of ATM Grupa, a production company in Poland.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the picture used in the misleading posts (left) and the picture as it appears on the ATM Grupa website (right):
The website identifies the actor playing Father Matthew as Artur Zmijewski.
A keyword search on YouTube also found a trailer for the TV series uploaded on the verified channel of Polish streaming media platform TVP VOD on December 3, 2008.
Zmijewski’s character can be seen dressed in the same green vestment at the video’s 1:24 mark.