Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Vatican With UFO On Its Coat Of Arms -- It's Church In Mexico, With Galero Hat Heraldry

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Vatican With UFO On Its Coat Of Arms -- It's Church In Mexico, With Galero Hat Heraldry Hat ≠ UFO

Does a viral picture prove that the Vatican is "ruled by aliens" or show that "the UFO symbol is almost everywhere" there? No, that's not true: The image does not show the Vatican or its official symbols -- the photo shows a coat of arms seen in a Catholic church in Mexico, and there is no UFO on it. The object shown in the picture is a traditional "galero" hat with long tassels, which used to be worn by Catholic cardinals until the second half of the 20th century.

The story resurfaced in a post (archived here) published on X, formerly known as Twitter, on September 5, 2023. It opened:

Is the Vatican ruled by aliens? This photo was posted by an Italian citizen at the Vatican on March 30, 2021. For years, conspiracy theorists have revealed that an alien species with a UFO symbol rules the Vatican behind the scenes.

The post continued:

It was very interesting, getting pictures from the Vatican that prove that the UFO symbol is almost everywhere: on the clothes of statues as the Pope's main seal on the covers of religious books such as the Old Testament. In 1977, the theory was advanced that the Vatican had a direct connection to an extraterrestrial religion, but the Vatican has never denied or endorsed it.

This is how it appeared on X at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-09-12 at 4.59.47 PM.png

Twitter screenshot(Source: X.com screenshot taken on Tue Sep 12 20:59:47 2023 UTC)

The post contained what looked like a screenshot of a video showing a priest wearing purple attire. In the background, we see a coat of arms.

The image has been circulating on social media at least since May 2021, but it doesn't show what those posts claim it does.

What is described as a "UFO" is, in fact, a galero -- a traditional hat (typically red) that popes used to put on the new cardinals' heads until 1969 when such headwear was abolished. Yet, it remained a traditional part of Catholic cardinals' personal coats of arms until this day.

The official Vatican insignia looks different.

Coats of arms may be used by other religious denominations, but the Rev. Roger J. Landry confirmed to Lead Stories via email on September 13, 2023, that the coat of arms in question is Catholic and nothing in the picture suggests otherwise. Landry has been a Catholic chaplain at Columbia University since 2022 and previously served as an attache to the Holy See's permanent observer mission to the United Nations. He pointed out that the image from social media is unique from many perspectives and that it may be tied to a particular time of the year:
That is the coat of arms of an Archbishop rather than a diocese. You can tell an archbishop by the four rows of tassels. There is a bishop/archbishop preaching in Advent or Lent (purple vestments). Normally the coat of arms would be behind his 'cathedra' or episcopal chair, but it looks to me like it's been placed in the pulpit from which he was preaching. The coat of arms is somewhat rare. Normally it features personal elements from the bishop and then elements of the Diocese but this features just the crucifix.

Below the crucifix, we see a wavy line, which doesn't appear to be a symbol frequently used in this context, either.

Additionally, the coat of arms includes another object (just below the galero), which may look unfamiliar, but has an established history: It's a variation of the chi-rho cross associated with the early days of Christianity.

Contrary to the claim, a single example containing all three of those elements -- the chi-rho cross, the crucifix and the wavy line -- was found by Lead Stories half a world away from the Vatican: inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Monterrey -- spelled in Spanish as Cathedral Metropolitana De Monterrey -- in the Mexican state of Nuevo León.

The Instagram account of Arzobispo de Monterrey contains several photos showing that coat of arms as well as unique decorative wooden arches on the walls also seen in the screenshot on social media. Here is one example:

Screen Shot 2023-09-12 at 6.04.27 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Sep 12 22:04:27 2023 UTC)

Other social media accounts associated with this church suggested that the purple attire is not most commonly worn during religious ceremonies, but a video published March 14, 2021 -- just before the picture started to circulate online -- showed a similarly-looking white-haired priest wearing the exact same purple attire with three whitish lines in the middle, and the time of the year was consistent with the dates Lent took place in 2021.

Screen Shot 2023-09-12 at 4.20.33 PM.png

(Source: YouTube screenshot taken on Sep 12 20:20:33 2023 UTC)

Other Lead Stories fact checks about the Vatican can be found here.


  • 2023-09-13T19:31:41Z 2023-09-13T19:31:41Z
    Adds quote from former attache to the Holy See.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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