By David Kerr
The Vatican is denying newspaper claims that three officials close to Pope Benedict XVI were found complicit in the recent leaking of sensitive papal information to the media.
“The Secretariat of State expresses its firm and total disapproval of those publications, which are not based on objective criteria and seriously damage the honor of the people concerned, who have served the Holy Father faithfully for many years,” said a statement issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State on July 23.
The allegations were printed in the July 23 edition of the Italian daily newspaper “La Repubblica” after they appeared in the online edition of German newspaper “Die Welt” last week.
Both articles claimed that the role of three senior Vatican officials in the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal was uncovered by an investigative Commission of Cardinals, led by the Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz.
“Being called before a commission in the course of its investigations in no way means that a person is a suspect,” Father Federico Lombardi said on Vatican Radio July 23.
“It is evident that the three people mentioned in the article may have been called to appear, but this says nothing about their being suspected of shared responsibility or ‘complicity.’”
Both Fr. Lombardi and the Vatican Information Service subsequently publicly confirmed the names of the three officials in question.
They are Italian Cardinal Paolo Sardi, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, German Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and a German laywoman, Ingrid Stampa, who is Pope Benedict’s private secretary and housekeeper.
Fr. Lombardi suggested that original article in “Die Welt” was ignored in the rest of the German media because it contained inaccuracies and accusations that were without any proof.
The report from the Commission of Cardinals was presented to Pope Benedict XVI in his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo late last week.
“The fact that the results of the investigations have not yet been made known by the authorities concerned, in no way legitimizes the publication of unfounded and false interpretations and theories. It is not this kind of information that the public has the right to know,” the July 23 Secretariat of State statement concluded.
Meanwhile, the only person charged so far as part of the “Vatileaks” investigation has been granted house arrest after nearly two months in custody. Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict’s butler, was given parole July 21.
The 46-year-old Italian was charged on May 26 with the “aggravated theft” of confidential Vatican documents found in his apartment. Over the next few days the Vatican’s justice system will decide whether to send him for trial or acquit him.