Deploring ‘gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander’

VATICAN CITY — Vatican officials released a pair of unusual statements Saturday condemning some press coverage of the papal transition.

A communiqué from the Secretariat of State called “deplorable” the “widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories” intended to exert “pressures on the election of the pope.”

The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, delivered an editorial on Vatican Radio lamenting “pressures and considerations that are foreign to the spirit with which the church would like to live this period of waiting and preparation”:

There is no lack, in fact, of those who seek to profit from the moment of surprise and disorientation of the spiritually naive to sow confusion and to discredit the Church and its governance, making recourse to old tools, such as gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander, or exercising unacceptable pressures to condition the exercise of the voting duty on the part of one or another member of the College of Cardinals, who they consider to be objectionable for one reason or another.

Neither statement specified the news stories in question, but Father Lombardi’s editorial referred to distortions by “those who consider money, sex and power before all else and are used to reading diverse realities from these perspectives.”

Articles in the Italian press this week have portrayed a Vatican divided among political factions, with some officials supposedly subject to blackmail, and have suggested a link between bureaucratic infighting and Pope Benedict’s historic decision to step down Feb. 28.

The stories refer to a confidential internal report on the so-called “Vatileaks” of confidential documents last year, but there is no reason to believe that any journalist has had access to the contents of that report.

Whoever the sources of these stories may be, if they are seeking to discredit particular electors in the upcoming conclave, their targets are presumably among those cardinals who work in the Vatican itself.

Pope thanks Curia for helping ‘carry the burden’ of papacy

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI thanked members of the Roman Curia “for these eight years during which you have helped me carry the burden of the Petrine ministry with great competence, affection, love and faith.”

The pope make his remarks this morning at the end of his annual Lenten retreat with his top collaborators. Since last Sunday evening, the pope and Vatican officials had been gathered in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace for prayer, eucharistic adoration and 17 meditations offered by Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

File photo: Pope Benedict XVI prays during last year's retreat. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

File photo: Pope Benedict XVI prays during last year’s retreat. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

The pope said that while his close collaboration with the Curia officials would end, their “spiritual closeness” would remain, as would “a profound communion in prayer.”

“With this certainty, let us move forward, certain of the victory of God, certain of truth, beauty and love,” he said.

Vatican Radio said Cardinal Ravasi ended the retreat by telling the pope that other members of the Curia wanted him to express their affection for him and some “told me to ask forgiveness for the ways we were unable to support you in your ministry.”

The cardinal said it was most appropriate, though, simply “to thank you for your teaching and your ministry.”

Cardinal Ravasi said the pope’s ministry will continue in a different form, with what the cardinal described as the pope’s “hiding” or withdrawal from public life.