By Elisabetta Povoledo
AS THE world’s Catholics prepare for the addition of 22 members to the College of Cardinals, the Vatican is embroiled in an embarrassing scandal in which leaked documents have exposed the church’s inner workings.
The internal squabbling, predictably dubbed ”VatiLeaks” by the Italian media, became public about three weeks ago with the disclosure of confidential letters written by a top Vatican official who had denounced alleged corruption and financial mismanagement in Vatican City.
The widespread feeling among experts is that the letters were a volley in a battle among officials jousting for power in a papal court whose anointed leader, they say, is more concerned with theological questions than with day-to-day affairs.
Every journalist who follows the church has described the controversy as part of ”a clash between cardinals in the Curia”, even though the Vatican is denying it, said reporter Paolo Rodari. The documents that have been published ”could not get out unless they came from someone inside”, he said.
The Vatican has not denied the letters’ authenticity, but it has issued numerous statements saying the media have blown the matter out of proportion.
The first missives to be published date to last year. In them, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, at the time the deputy governor of Vatican City, fretted that he would be ousted after making enemies in his effort to combat overspending and cronyism in the awarding of contracts. He pleaded with his boss, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the Pope to let him stay on. Instead, Archbishop Vigano was named the papal nuncio, or ambassador, to the US.
Letters and documents by other officials followed, including some suggesting that the Vatican was not adequately complying with international legislation to prevent money laundering.
One anonymous document published two weeks ago cited reports that a Sicilian cardinal had spoken vaguely about a plot to kill Pope Benedict XVI before the end of 2012. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi called the reports ”delirious and incomprehensible”.
The airing of the church’s problems comes at an awkward time for the Vatican as it prepares to expand the College of Cardinals, which took place at a ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica last night. In a front-page editorial last week about Pope Benedict in the Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, editor-in-chief Giovanni Maria Vian described the Pope as standing fast ”before the wolves” amid ”irresponsible and unworthy behaviour” encouraged by the ”clamour of the media”.
Father Lombardi also took stabs at the media and called on church officials to ”have strong nerves, because no one can be surprised at anything”, comparing the embarrassment caused by the letters to the mortification that engulfed the US administration in the WikiLeaks scandal.