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Vatican calls reports of conspiracy by Italian media 'completely false'

Since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation the Italian media has speculated there could be more to the story, and has written unflattering stories about the Vatican's administration. On Saturday, the Vatican accused the Italian media of spreading false reports.

By Philip PullellaReuters / February 23, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI, (r.), delivers his message concluding a weeklong spiritual retreat, at the Vatican, Saturday. On Saturday, the Vatican called reports by the Italian media speculating on conspiracies and secret lobbies said to have pushed the Pope to abdicate, 'false and damaging.'

L'Osservatore Romano/AP

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Vatican City

The Vatican on Saturday accused the Italian media of spreading "false and damaging" reports in what it condemned as a deplorable attempt to influence cardinals who will meet in a secret conclave next month to elect a new pope.

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Since Pope Benedict announced his resignation on Feb. 11, Italian newspapers have been full of rumours about conspiracies, secret reports and lobbies in the Vatican that they say pushed the pope to abdicate.

"It is deplorable that, as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave ... that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions," a Vatican statement said.

The Italian reports have painted an unflattering picture of the Vatican's central administration, known as the Curia, depicting it as being full of prelates more concerned with their careers than serving the Church or the pope.

Some Church officials, speaking privately, have said foreign cardinals coming to Rome to choose the next pope have been alarmed over reports of corruption and might be inclined to elect someone not connected with the Curia, which is predominantly Italian.

The Vatican statement said the Italian media reports were an attempt to influence the outcome of the conclave through negative public opinion much like states and kings tried to influence papal elections centuries ago.

The pope has announced that he will step down on Feb. 28, becoming the first pontiff to abdicate in some six centuries.

The 85-year-old Benedict said his failing health no longer enabled him to run the 1.2-billion-member Roman Catholic Church as he would like.

DISCREDITING THE CHURCH

In a separate statement, Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the reports were trying to "discredit the Church and its government" ahead of the conclave.

Italy's Repubblica newspaper ran a series of unsourced stories this week about the alleged contents of a secret report prepared for the pope by a commission of three cardinals who investigated the so-called Vatileaks scandal last year.

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