Vatican attacks Pope resignation 'gossip'

Pope Benedict
Image caption The Pope is the first pontiff to resign rather than die in office for hundreds of years

The Vatican's chief spokesperson has criticised the media for reporting "misinformation" about the Church.

Father Federico Lombardi said some were trying to profit from a time of disorientation in the Catholic Church to spread "gossip" and "slander".

Father Lombardi made the comments in an editorial on the Vatican radio website.

Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, the first by a pope in nearly 600 years, takes effect on Thursday. His decision surprised many within the Church.

There have been recent articles in the Italian and international media suggesting intrigue and corruption in the Church.

'Unacceptable pressure'

An unconfirmed report in one of Italy's biggest newspapers, La Repubblica, suggested that the Pope had resigned shortly after being presented with a dossier detailing a network of Vatican priests, "united by sexual orientation" who were being blackmailed.

Without giving credence to such allegations or addressing the report specifically, the Vatican spokesman said those putting themselves in positions of judgement had no authority to do so.

"Whoever has money, sex and power at the forefront of their mind sees the world through these parameters and cannot see beyond, even when looking at the Church," he said.

"Their view cannot look to the heights or go in-depth to understand the spiritual dimensions and motivations of existence," he added.

Last year, the Pope appointed three retired cardinals to conduct an investigation into a scandal that became known as Vatileaks. The Pope's former butler Paolo Gabriele was convicted and later pardoned for stealing documents from his office.

Referring to the upcoming conclave, during which the next leader of the Catholic Church will be chosen, Father Lombardi also suggested that the media was exerting "unacceptable pressure to condition the vote of one or other member of the college of cardinals".

The BBC's Vatican correspondent, David Willey, says that this is probably directed towards attempts by the American media to dissuade US cardinals alleged to have covered up clerical sexual abuse scandals from travelling to take part in the vote.

Later on Saturday, the Pope is due to hold a farewell meeting with the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

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