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.