.- In a brief but firm communiqué Thursday morning, Father Federico Lombardi S.J., Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, denied the validity of a story in the Italian daily "La Stampa." Lombardi said the story’s purported “revelations” which claimed that the Vatican Secretary of State has agreed to a request from the government of Italy to keep quiet on social issues and that the Holy See is receiving pressure from certain bishops over the appointment of the next President of the Italian Episcopal Conference are both false.
"Regarding news published this morning in an important Italian daily, I deny that a meeting has recently taken place between Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and the Italian prime minister, Romano Prodi, or that a letter has arrived in the Vatican from bishops of Piedmont concerning the presidency of the CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference)," the press release said.
On Thursday, "La Stampa" published an article which rumored that Cardinal Bertone and Prime Minister Prodi had a "private" meeting in "the past weeks," in which the Secretary of state agreed that the Church in Italy would be less forceful in voicing its opinion regarding such public policy issues as the recognition of unmarried couples, a topic which is presently at the center of public debate in Italy.
The same article also indicated that Bishops of the Piedmont region, in Northern Italy had written a letter to Pope Benedict XVI asking him not to name Cardinal Angelo Scola as the new President of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CIS), due to the Cardinal’s close ties with the Milan-based Communion and Liberation movement.
In Italy, the President of the bishop’s conference is directly appointed by the Pope, who as the Bishop of Rome oversees the Church in Italy. The retirement of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, due to canonical age limits, and the sudden death of Ruini’s anticipated successor, 55-year old Archbishop Cataldo Naro, Archbishop of Monreale (Sicily), has brought a spate of media speculation lately.