Pope unafraid of ‘Vatileaks’ scandal

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iol news pic Vatican Scandal AP FILE - Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges faithful upon his arrival at the Our Lady of Mercy Shrine in Savona, near Genoa, Italy. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, file)

Vatican City -

Pope Benedict XVI isn't afraid about what might emerge in the widening investigation into leaked documents and is encouraging prosecutors and a fact-finding commission to get to the truth over one of the most serious Holy See scandals in recent history, the Vatican spokesman said Tuesday.

Spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Benedict was pained by the leaks and that he, Lombardi, felt “personally violated,” even though none of the spokesman's correspondence had filtered out to Italian media or into a recent book of leaked documents that have laid bare the infighting, intrigue and petty squabbles that have plagued the highest echelons of the Catholic Church's governance.

The so-called “Vatileaks” scandal has tormented the Vatican for months and represents one of the greatest breaches of trust and security for the pope in recent memory. Benedict's personal butler has been arrested, accused of theft, after documents he had no business having were found in his Vatican City apartment. Few think the butler acted alone, and the investigation is continuing on three separate tracks.

The butler, Paolo Gabriele, is due to be formally questioned in the coming days by Vatican prosecutors following his May 23 arrest, Lombardi said. His lawyers reported that had pledged to fully cooperate with the investigation to get to the truth, raising the specter that higher ranking prelates may soon be implicated.

Lombardi said the scandal was certainly grave, and pointed to the fact that Benedict had established a commission of high-ranking cardinals to investigate alongside the criminal investigation and an internal administrative probe. The cardinals' commission is headed by a heavyweight: Cardinal Julian Herranz, an Opus Dei prelate who headed the Vatican's legal office as well as the disciplinary commission of the Vatican bureaucracy before retiring.

In addition, the pope's personal bodyguard, Domenico Giani, a former Italian secret service agent, has been on something of a crusade tracking down the origin of the leaks in recent months, Vatican insiders report.

“We aren't afraid of the problems, the difficulties and also the errors and guilt that might come out,” Lombardi told reporters. “We are trying to do the right thing, following a difficult path of truth and taking the necessary measures to reestablish the trust and good functioning of the governance of the church and its institutions.”

He said it certainly was a “difficult test” for the pope and his aides but that he hoped that the problems would be identified so that the Vatican can “enjoy the trust of the people God, which the pope certainly merits and we his collaborators must try to support.”

The Vatileaks scandal broke in January when Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi broadcast letters from the former No. 2 Vatican administrator to the pope in which he begged not to be transferred for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros (dollars) in higher contract prices. The prelate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, is now the Vatican's U.S. ambassador.

The scandal widened over the following months with documents leaked to Italian journalists that laid bare power struggles inside the Vatican over its efforts to show greater financial transparency and comply with international norms to fight money laundering. There was even a leak of a memo claiming that Benedict would die this year.

The scandal reached a peak last weekend, when Nuzzi published an entire book based on a trove of new documentation, including personal correspondence to and from the pope and his private secretary, much of which paints Benedict's No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light. - Sapa-AP


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