VATICAN CITY Feb 22 The Vatican denied on
Friday that Pope Benedict's decision to send a senior official
to a new post in Latin America was linked to a secret report
about leaked papal papers.
Since Benedict announced his resignation on Feb. 11, Italian
newspapers have been full of rumours about conspiracies, secret
reports and lobbies in the Vatican that they say pushed the pope
Some reports hinted there were sinister motives behind the
pope's decision to promote Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, an
Italian who holds a post roughly equivalent to deputy foreign
minister, to be the Vatican's new ambassador to Colombia.
The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the
suggestion that the pope had made the appointment to get
Balestrero out of the Vatican was "absurd, totally without
Lombardi said the appointment had been decided weeks ago and
that the Vatican had waited for the Colombian government's
official agreement before announcing it.
The pope has announced that he will step down on Feb. 28,
becoming the first pontiff to abdicate in some six centuries.
The 85-year-old Benedict said his failing health no longer
enabled him to run the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church
as he would like.
Italy's Repubblica newspaper has run a series of unsourced
stories about the alleged contents of a secret report prepared
for the pope by a commission of three cardinals who investigated
the so-called Vatileaks scandal last year.
In that scandal, Paolo Gabriele, the pope's butler, was
convicted of stealing personal papal documents and leaking them
to the media.
The documents alleged corruption in the Vatican and
infighting over the running of its bank, which has been at the
heart of a series of scandals in past decades.
The Italian media stories suggested Balestrero was mentioned
in the cardinals' report, which was handed to the pope and is
Balestrero was head of the Vatican's delegation to Moneyval,
the Council of Europe's committee that evaluates how countries
are applying international standards on financial transparency.
The Vatican, a sovereign city-state surrounded by Rome,
subjected itself to Moneyval's investigations in an attempt to
achieve full financial transparency and put its scandal-tinged
financial past behind it.
The Moneyval report, issued last July, gave the Vatican an
overall passing grade but said it had to made improvements in
several areas, including the management at its bank, the
Institute for Works of Religion (IOR).
The Vatican has said it is willing to adhere to all of
Bogota is one of the most prestigious posts in Latin America
for a Vatican diplomat because it is the headquarters of CELAM,
the umbrella group for all of the continent's bishops
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)