Pope Transfers Top Official After Secret Dossier ReportsJeffrey Donovan
Pope Benedict XVI transferred a senior Holy See official after his name appeared in Italian media reports about a secret Vatican dossier on the leaking of papal documents.
Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, who as an undersecretary of the Vatican’s Foreign Ministry had played a key role in efforts to improve Vatican financial transparency, was named ambassador to Colombia, the Holy See press office said today.
Balestrero had been mentioned in the reports by Panorama magazine and la Repubblica daily, which said the pope decided to resign in December after receiving a dossier allegedly detailing a network of sex and corruption inside the Vatican. The reports cited unidentifed people close to the three cardinals who compiled the document, which was the result of an internal probe into last year’s leaks case that led to the arrest and later pardon of the pope’s personal butler.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, who’s indicated the pope may meet with the cardinals who compiled the document before leaving office Feb. 28, has declined to comment on the Italian media reports.
Balestrero’s transfer was in the works a long time and had nothing to do with the media reports or leaks investigation, Lombardi told reporters after a briefing at the Vatican today.
The scandal known as Vatileaks centered on papal documents that were leaked to an Italian journalist by Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s former butler. The pope on Dec. 22 pardoned Gabriele after he had been convicted of theft by a Vatican tribunal and sentenced to 18 months in a Vatican jail.
The leaked texts formed the backbone of a book portraying the Vatican as a hotbed of intrigue and Benedict as a leader undermined by his powerful second-in-command, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, once touted as a possible candidate for the papacy.
The pope announced on Feb. 11 that he no longer had the strength to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and will resign from the papacy at the end of the month, the first such abdication in almost 600 years.
In one of this last public appearances before retiring, the pope said Feb. 13 that “God is not an instrument to be used for one’s own ends, for one’s own glory.” Catholic clergy must avoid divisions and set a good example for both the faithful and non-believers, he said.
“The face of the church is sometimes disfigured, I think in particular of the blows against its unity and divisions within the clergy,” he said during Ash Wednesday celebrations Feb. 13 in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Overcoming individualism and rivalries is a humble and precious signal to those who are far from the faith.”