The Vatican has put two Italian journalists under investigation for their alleged role in divulging state secrets. The pair wrote books detailing gross financial mismanagement and corruption within the church.
Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi were being investigated on suspicion of "complicity in committing a crime," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Wednesday.
The journalists last week published two books based on classified documents leaked from a committee that was set up by Pope Francis to review the Vatican's financial affairs.
Their works outline the mammoth challenge Pope Francis faces in reforming the Catholic Church and include revelations of theft, wasteful spending and greed within the secretive city-state.
In the Italian and Vatican legal systems, it is not unusual for magistrates to carry out such probes without charges ever being filed. It may also be difficult for the state-city to investigate the two Italian nationals if they were given the documents outside Vatican territory.
Unless the reporters agree to be questioned by the Vatican, the Holy See would have to ask Italian law enforcement to get involved - a step which could drag out the process.
The books in question - Nuzzi's "Merchants in the Temple" and "Avarice" by Fittipaldi - caused a storm in the Italian media. The scandal has been dubbed "Vatileaks II," after the "Vatileaks" furore that preceded the resignation of former Pope Benedict in 2013. That scandal centered around documents fed to the media by the pontiff's butler.
The Vatican has condemned the books and vowed to take legal steps to defend its reputation. Pope Francis' top deputy, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Wednesday the reports bordered on the "hysterical" and were simply "attacks on the church."
On Sunday, Pope Francis himself described the latest leaks as "deplorable." He said they would not stop him from forging ahead with plans to reform the church.
nm/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)