Vatican battles to maintain secrecy ahead of conclave to elect pope

March 7, 2013

(Saint Peter’s Basilica is pictured at the Vatican March 7, 2013.  REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)

The Vatican struggled on Thursday to contain leaks from its closed-door preparations for the next papal election, highlighting a gap between the Catholic Church’s traditional secrecy and the 24/7 information age.

Details divulged from the debates appeared in Italian media again despite a Vatican move on Wednesday to influence reporting by ending news conferences by American cardinals that had begun to compete with its own daily briefings.

It was widely assumed that Italian cardinals were tipping off friendly journalists but the Vatican spokesman said it was wrong to point the finger at national groups.

He said all “princes of the Church” should tighten the vow of secrecy they took when the pre-conclave meeting began on Monday.

“If anyone knows who is violating this, they should say so,” Rev. Federico Lombardi told journalists at his briefing. “It is up to the College of Cardinals to assume their responsibility and adapt a code of conduct.”

“We are counting on the morality and responsibility of people,” he added.

The cardinals have been holding preparatory meetings to ponder who among them could succeed Pope Benedict – who stepped down last week – as leader of the 1.2 billion member Church at one of the most crisis-ridden periods in its history.

With its memory stretching back centuries, the Vatican bristles at any attempt to influence the papal vote, something that was once the prerogative of European Catholic powers who could veto candidates not to their liking.

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