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Vatican blames media for latest scandal - again

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing during Angelus prayer from his studio overlooking St. Peter's square Vatican Sunday June 17

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing during the Angelus prayer from his studio overlooking St. Peter's square at the Vatican, Sunday, June 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is blaming the media for fueling the latest scandal over leaked Vatican documents and is insisting that there are no power struggles or problems of unity in the Holy See’s governance.

Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told an Italian Catholic weekly that journalists reporting on the leaks scandal are “pretending to be Dan Brown ... inventing stories and replaying legends.” The reference to Brown is particularly acute; Brown wrote “The Da Vinci Code,” the best-selling fictional account of power struggles and scandals inside the Vatican.

The Vatican has been on the defensive ever since sensitive documents alleging corruption and exposing power struggles began appearing in the Italian media in January. A recent book containing dozens of documents from Pope Benedict XVI’s own desk has compounded what many see as a plot to undermine Bertone’s authority.

In the interview with Familia Cristiana, Bertone said he enjoys “an extraordinary climate of communion” with his collaborators.

“Personally, I don’t sense any sign of cardinals or church personalities being involved in any conquest of some phantom power,” he said. The interview is due on newsstands Thursday but was made available to journalists Monday.

Bertone acknowledged he was at the center of the fray and that the scandal had pained him, but said he was heartened by having the “real church” by his side.

He admitted the Holy See isn’t perfect and that “none of us wants to hide the church’s shadows and defects.” But he said the media, the Italian media in particular, had gone too far and appeared to be trying to create divisions between the pope and his collaborators where there weren’t any.

The leaks scandal broke in January when Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi revealed letters from a former top Vatican administrator who begged the pope not to transfer him for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros (dollars) in higher contract prices. The prelate was transferred and 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.

The scandal reached a peak last month 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 painted the Vatican secretary of state in a negative light.

Several top Vatican officials have recently castigated the media for fueling the scandal, including Bertone’s predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and the current administrator of the Vatican city state. Pope Benedict XVI himself has complained about media reports that “went well beyond the facts, offering an image of the Holy See that doesn’t correspond to reality.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, spends much of his briefings denying media reports.

So far only one person has been arrested in the case: the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, a 46-year-old father of three who was arrested May 23 and accused of aggravated theft after reams of papal documents were found in his Vatican City apartment.

Lombardi said Monday that so far a commission of cardinals investigating the leaks scandal had interviewed 23 people, including lay and clergy, Vatican superiors and employees.

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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield



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