Pope Benedict XVI decided to resign after an internal probe informed him about the extent of sex and graft scandals inside the Vatican, an Italian newspaper reported yesterday, quoting unnamed sources.
Three cardinals, including the former chief of the Vatican’s secret services, were asked to verify the allegations of financial impropriety, cronyism and corruption brought up by the publication of confidential papal papers in the so-called VatiLeaks affair.
On December 17, 2012, they handed to the Pontiff two red-leather bound volumes, almost 300-pages long, containing “an exact map of the mischief and the bad fish” inside the Holy See, daily La Repubblica reported.
“It was on that day, with those papers on his desk, that Benedict XVI took the decision he had mulled over for so long,” the report suggested.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi refused to “run after fantasies and opinions” on VatiLeaks, and warned reporters: “Don’t expect comments or rebuttals of what is being said on this issue.”
The cardinals who penned the secret report “will not give interviews and will not give out information”, he added.
Benedict is leaving his post on February 28.
So far, the Vatican has insisted that his decision – the first papal resignation in 600 years – was due to his advanced age and had nothing to do with Vatican conspiracies.
It has been said that the conclave of cardinals to elect a successor would start around March 15, but there is speculation that the process could be speeded up.
Lombardi suggested on Wednesday that Benedict might issue a decree on the issue before resigning.
But yesterday he said that cardinals will choose when to start only after the Pope leaves his post.
“It is impossible to say the date in advance, before the decision of the congregation of cardinals,” he said.
La Repubblica quoted a man described as “very close” to the authors of the secret report as stating that the information it contained was “all about the breach of the sixth and seven commandments”.
The commandments are “thou shalt not commit adultery” and “thou shalt not steal”.
The cardinals were said to have uncovered an underground gay network, whose members organise sexual meetings in several venues in Rome and the Vatican City and are prone to blackmail because of their sexual orientation.
Among those mentioned in the report is Marco Simeon, a manager at state television RAI whose name cropped up in connection with one of the intrigues exposed by VatiLeaks.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused him of successfully plotting to have him removed from the chairmanship of the Vatican City Governorate, following his attempts to introduce greater financial transparency.
Simeon is seen as being very close to the Vatican’s second-highest official, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The secret report also delves into suspect dealings at the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), the Vatican’s bank, where a new chairman was appointed last week after a nine-month vacancy, La Repubblica said, without going into details.
The newspaper said that Benedict would personally hand over the confidential files to his successor, with the hope that he will be “strong, young and holy” enough to take the necessary corrective actions.