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'Vatileaks': A behind-the-scenes look at Vatican politics

03 october 2012, 10:00
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The "Vatileaks" scandal that has led to the trial of Pope Benedict XVI's butler for theft involves hundreds of letters that passed across the pope's desk over several months in 2011 and early 2012, AFP reports.

The documents offer an unprecedented glimpse into internal politics at the Vatican -- from allegations of fraud in the running of the city state to cloak-and-dagger intrigue among the pope's closest collaborators.

They also reveal wider concerns about the state of the Catholic Church's finances as a result of the global financial crisis and the role played by the Vatican in behind-the-scenes diplomacy with Basque militant group ETA.

Here are some of the main highlights from the confidential documents, which were published by Italian investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi in May in the book "His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI":

-- CORRUPTION: The head of the Holy See's governorate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano', claimed in a letter to the pope he was being hounded out of his post for cracking down on corruption in contracts for public works at the Vatican.

The prelate, who was later sacked and appointed as Vatican envoy to Washington, said his efforts had cut millions in waste, such as the 550,000 euros ($709,000) spent to set up a Nativity scene on St. Peter's Square.

He also accused a clergyman in a managerial role at the Vatican museums of fraud, claimed Vatican bankers were favouring their own interests and said the Vatican was charged twice as much as market rates for corrupt contracts.

-- DONATIONS: The leaks document some of the tens of millions of euros (dollars) in personal donations that are sent to the pope every year for works of charity, including some from donors trying to curry favour with the Vatican.

An Italian chat show host sends 10,000 euros with a note asking for a private audience, while an Italian businessman's offering of a 100,000-euro giant white truffle causes puzzlement and ends up in a charity soup kitchen.

-- ECONOMY: The papers reveal concern over Vatican finances due to the global financial crisis, increased tax pressure from governments and rising legal costs linked to paedophilia scandals -- for example in the United States.

-- INTRIGUE: Many of the missives from leading figures in the Catholic world are thinly-veiled barbs against each other. There are also notes from leading clergymen criticising the leadership of Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.

-- DIPLOMACY: The notes show Vatican officials had contacts with militants from the Basque separatist group ETA to encourage them to declare a ceasefire and lobbied the Ethiopian government for the release of two Swedish reporters.

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