The Vatican has lashed out at the media for what it says are false reports of "intrigue and corruption" in the run up to the conclave to elect the next pope. The Pope is set to leave his post on Thursday.
The Vatican responded on Saturday to recent reports of conspiracies and corruption, referring to them as 'false news stories' aimed at influencing the conclave that will decide on a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
"It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave... there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions," the Vatican secretariat of state's statement said.
Italian newspapers have been running reports, without naming sources, about a secret dossier prepared for the pope by three cardinals who investigated the origins of the 2012 leaked documents scandal.
The reports have suggested that the dossier's contents may have pushed Pope Benedict XVI to resign.
The daily newspaper Rebubblica and the Panorama news weekly said last week that the cardinal's report included allegations of corruption and of blackmail attempts against gay Vatican clergy, as well as favoritism.
The Vatican Radio's website quoted a Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi dismissing the reports as "gossip, disinformation and sometimes slander.”
Pope Benedict XVI has said he does not have the "strength of mind and body" to continue in his papal duties. He is set to resign on February 28, the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years.
Vatican hits back
Saturday's statement from the Vatican was a rare response to media pressures, making it clear that the Catholic Church insists on the independence of its cardinals to freely elect their pope, rather than being influenced by external pressures.
"If in the past… states exerted pressures on the election of the pope, today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion that is often based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the church is living," the statement said.
The pope is will address the faithful on Sunday and Wednesday before leaving his post on Thursday. A new pope is to be installed by Easter, following the March conclave.
tm/rc (AP, AFP, dpa)