The Vatican is conducting a widening probe into leaked documents that prompted the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI’s butler last week in a case local media have compared to an Agatha Christie novel.
The Vatican yesterday ruled out any involvement in the investigation of a cardinal or a woman, after newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Stampa reported that the butler hadn’t acted alone and that a cardinal, the Roman Catholic Church’s highest rank after the pope, was also among the suspects.
The pope is “aware of the delicate situation going on inside the Curia,” or the Holy See’s government, spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters. “No cardinal or woman is under investigation,” said Lombardi, who is due to brief the press again today after 12 p.m. in Rome.
Italian media have offered contradictory versions of the events behind the May 25 arrest of Paolo Gabriele, the butler found in possession of classified documents. The case has often been portrayed as part of a palace intrigue pitting loyalists of an increasingly isolated Benedict, 85, against Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s de facto prime minister.
“It’s right out of an Agatha Christie novel,” Rome daily Il Foglio said.
It began last week when Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was ousted as head of the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion, or IOR. Gotti Tedeschi, who had been trying to bring the bank into line with global-transparency standards, was removed in a no-confidence vote by the IOR board for having failed “to carry out various duties of primary importance,” Lombardi said in a statement on May 24.
The next day, Gabriele was arrested in a case Lombardi said had nothing to do with Gotti Tedeschi, an executive with Banco Santander SA who also teaches financial ethics at Milan’s Catholic University.
Gabriele has so far been charged with “aggravated theft,” Lombardi said yesterday. Many secret Vatican papers came to light this month with the publication in Italy of “The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI,” a book by Gianluigi Nuzzi that aimed to expose Bertone’s growing influence.
The butler wasn’t acting alone and high-ranking clerics were also involved in the leaking operation as part of an attempt to protect the pope from Bertone’s machinations, Repubblica daily reported, citing an unidentified person involved in the effort. Gotti Tedeschi’s removal was also orchestrated by Bertone, the person was cited today as saying.
According to the IOR’s Supervisory Board, Gotti Tedeschi exhibited shortcomings in nine areas including not attending board meetings and poor communication with its members, lack of prudence in comments about the bank, failure to explain the “dissemination” of documents in his possession and “progressively erratic behavior.” The board made public its criticism in a nine-point statement on May 24.
Carl Anderson, an American who’s secretary of the board, has denied that Gotti Tedeschi’s dismissal had anything to do with the bank’s transparency efforts. “We confirm our decisive commitment to transparency, which isn’t under discussion,” he told La Stampa in an interview on May 26.
Moneyval, a Council of Europe committee that evaluates anti-money-laundering measures, is due to meet with Vatican officials in July to determine whether the city-state should be put on the EU’s financial-transparency “white list.”
The pope has so far not directly commented on the events of the last week. Buffeted by other crises including a global priestly pedophilia scandal, the pope told faithful in St. Peter’s Square on May 26 that “a wind is shaking the House of God” even as it’s “built on a rock.”
The investigation of the butler and the leaked papers is being overseen by a panel of cardinals “who are continuing their work, carrying out talks within the time required by the investigation,” Lombardi said yesterday. “They won’t let themselves be pressured by the media.”
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