Today was a joyful one at the Vatican, as 22 archbishops from around the world were elevated to the elite rank of cardinal -- but behind the scenes, things are considerably less harmonious. In a mystery befitting a Dan Brown novel, a series of unflattering leaks have emerged from the Vatican in a relatively short period of time, Time magazine reports. The leaks are serious enough that Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the Holy See, issued a statement comparing them to Wikileaks' own targeting of the United States Government, implying they were being released by someone looking to harm the church's reputation. "We must resist and not allow ourselves to be swallowed by the whirlpool of confusion, which is what those with bad intentions want," Lombardi wrote.
The most damaging leaks emerged in late January, The Washington Post reports, when an Italian television program produced letters exchanged between the Holy See's ambassador yo the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was overseeing the Vatican's financial reforms committee until October 2011:
Naming names close to Bertone, they make allegations of crooked contracting and of a campaign of defamation against the [Vatican] secretary of state [Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone].
Bertone, the Pope's second-in-command, was "appointed in 2006 run the day-to-day affairs of the Vatican while the pope focused on affairs of the spirit," Time writes, but has "faced fierce opposition from the Vatican's diplomatic staff, which has made little secret that it regards him as an outsider." Bertone's predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Sodana, refused to vacate his office for months after Bertone started the job, and the secretary of state has been accused of jockeying to put an Italian in line as the Pope's successor.
A second batch of leaked memos are critical of an effort to reform the Vatican bank. The final, and strangest, leak, is an anonymously authored document relaying comments made by an Italian cardinal visiting China, who anticipated that Pope Benedict XVI would be "dead with a year and replaced by Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan."
The letter is bizarre, recounting in German a conversation an Italian cardinal conducted with Chinese catholics. According to the text, the statements of Cardinal were apparently made with such certainty and firmness that his interlocutors in China thought with horror that an attack was being planned against the Holy Father.
But the Pope, who will turn 85 in April, was frail but very much alive at today's cardinal induction ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica, where New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, as well as archbishops from Prague, Hong Kong, Toronto, and several Vatican offices, were elevated to the crimson cloth. Each made "a solemn pledge to keep church secrets upon accepting their new title, ring and three-pointed red hat, or biretta from the pope," the AP reports.
Watch the ceremony here:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.