.- As the conclave to elect a new Pope approaches, the media has ramped up its speculation about why the Pope is resigning, causing the Secretariat of State to warn about “completely false and unverifiable” news stories aimed at swaying public opinion to influence the vote.
“It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the Conclave … that there is a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories, that cause serious damage to persons and institutions,” the Feb. 23 statement from the Secretariat of State said.
Italian newspapers and the international press have been filled in recent days with theories about both the reasons Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down and about how he will spend his last days.
One prominent example is a story run on Feb. 22 by the Italian daily La Repubblica. It alleged that a commission of three cardinals uncovered a gay network of priests at the Holy See who were being blackmailed.
Another report asserted that Pope Benedict would meet with the commission of cardinals in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major on his last day in office, a claim that Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi denied.
The Vatican state department noted that the cardinals who elect the new Pope “have had to face many forms of pressures exerted upon individual electors or on the College of Cardinals.
“Such pressures had as their goal to condition the decisions, following a political or worldly logic.”
In the past it was usually States or politicians who “exerted pressures on the election of the Pope,” the department said.
But “today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion that is often based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the Church is living.”
The Secretariat of State urged Catholics to focus in these moments on “what is essential: praying for Pope Benedict, praying also that the Holy Spirit enlighten the College of Cardinals, pray for the future Pope, confident that the future of the barque of Peter is in the hands of God.”