On Saturday, one day before Pope Benedict XVI's final blessing in St. Peter's Square, the Vatican lashed out at the media over what it called defamatory and false reports it says are an attempt to influence the election of the pope's successor, according to the Associated Press.
“Italian newspapers have been rife with unsourced reports in recent days about the contents of a secret dossier prepared for the pope by three cardinals who investigated the origins of the 2012 scandal over leaked Vatican documents,” the AP reported.
According to the reports, revelations in that dossier were a factor in his decision to resign.
The Italian paper La Republica, for example, said Pope Benedict decided to resign on Dec. 17, the day he received the documents from the cardinals.
The New York Post referenced La Repubblica and said that a “similar report appeared in Italy’s news weekly Panorama, which named a Roman sauna where gay encounters allegedly took place.”
But the Vatican called the reports “deplorable” and the pope said he simply doesn't have the “strength of mind and body” to carry out his duties and will resign on Feb. 28.
“If in the past, the so-called powers, i.e., 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 read.
“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.”
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi did not specify exactly how the media was attempting to influence the election but said the reports, “do not correspond to reality.”
The AP report says that the pope and some of his closest collaborators, “have recently denounced the dysfunction in the Apostolic Palace,” citing what Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi called the, “divisions, dissent, careerism, jealousies,” that afflict the bureaucracy in the Vatican.
According to the AP, Ravasi is a possible papal candidate.
The divisions Ravasi spoke of were exposed in documents stolen by Paolo Gabriele, the pope's butler, last year. In May, Gabriele was arrested after the documents were found in his apartment.
“The documents revealed the petty wrangling, corruption and cronyism and even allegations of a gay plot at the highest levels of the Catholic Church,” the AP reported.
On Wednesday, Pope Benedict referenced the divisions, and urged Church members to overcome “pride and egoism” last Sunday.
The AP said the Vatican's attack on the media echoed similar responses over sex abuse scandals in 2010 and the 2012 document scandal.