(Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican is seen during an heavy snowfall February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

Call it Conspiracy City. Call it Scandal City. Call it Leak City. These days the holy city has been in the news for anything but holy reasons.

“It is a total mess,” said one high-ranking Vatican official who spoke, like all others, on the condition of anonymity.

The Machiavellian manoeuvring and machinations that have come to light in the Vatican recently are worthy of a novel about a sinister power struggle at a mediaeval court.

Senior church officials interviewed this month said almost daily embarrassments that have put the Vatican on the defensive could force Pope Benedict to act to clean up the image of its administration – at a time when the church faces a deeper crisis of authority and relevance in the wider world.