VATICAN CITY (AFP) - The Vatican on Saturday condemned Italian media reports of intrigue, corruption and blackmail among senior prelates, saying these could be a form of pressure to sway voting in next month's conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI's successor.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi dismissed as "gossip, disinformation and sometimes calumny" the reports, which are linked to an investigation by a committee of cardinals last year over a series of damaging leaks of confidential papal documents.
In a statement on Vatican radio's website, Lombardi also referred to the upcoming conclave saying there was "unacceptable pressure to condition the vote of one or other member of the college of cardinals, who might be disliked for one reason or another".
"There are people who are trying to take advantage of this moment of surprise and disorientation of weak spirits to sow confusion and discredit the Church and its government," Lombardi said.
Media Firestorm Over Reports
Italian newspaper La Repubblica has published a report linking Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation to a Vatican scandal involving gay prelates and blackmail. Flagging the report this morning, the Guardian noted:
The paper said the pope had taken the decision on 17 December that he was going to resign – the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the so-called “Vatileaks” affair…
According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising “two volumes of almost 300 pages – bound in red” had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope’s successor upon his election.
The newspaper said the cardinals described a number of factions, including one whose members were “united by sexual orientation”.
In an apparent quotation from the report, La Repubblica said some Vatican officials had been subject to “external influence” from laymen with whom they had links of a “worldly nature”. The paper said this was a clear reference to blackmail.
Benedict XVI — the first pope to voluntarily step down in seven centuries — had reportedly ordered the investigation in response to the “Vatileaks” scandal, which culminated with the arrest and subsequent conviction last year of the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, found guilty of having stolen confidential documents from the papal apartment. The Guardian reported that the pope’s spokesman “declined to confirm or deny the report” from La Repubblica that the resignation was linked to the gay prelate inquiry. “Since announcing his departure he has twice apparently referred to machinations inside the Vatican, saying that divisions ‘mar the face of the church,’ and warned against ‘the temptations of power’,” the Guardian noted.