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Pope Addresses Vatileaks Controversy

At the conclusion of his weekly general audience yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI said the scandal of leaked documents and alleged corruption inside the Curia that have made headlines in recent days has brought sadness to his heart.

The Associated Press is reporting that yesterday's comments were the first public statements made by the Pope since the Vatileaks scandal broke in January.

"The events of recent days about the Curia and my collaborators have brought sadness in my heart," the pope said, then added, "I want to renew my trust in and encouragement of my closest collaborators and all those who every day, with loyalty and a spirit of sacrifice and in silence, help me fulfill my ministry."

He also took a stab at the press, criticizing the "exaggerated" and "gratuitous" rumors they were perpetrating which was giving the public a false impression of the Holy See.

The Italian media has been particularly engrossed in the story that centers around the leaking of private papal documents to the press, allegedly by the pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, who was arrested last week. These documents showed up in the book of Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi and portray the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light. Also revealed by Nuzzi were letters from the new nuncio to the U.S., Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, in which Vigano begs the pope not to transfer  him after he exposed alleged corruption in the Vatican bank.

"The Vatileaks scandal represents one of the greatest breaches of trust and security for the Holy See in recent memory given that a significant number of documents from the pope's own desk were leaked to an investigative journalist," the AP reports. "The Vatican has denounced the leaks as criminal and immoral and has opened a three-pronged investigation to get to the bottom of who was responsible."

Media speculation remains rampant with most wondering whether Gabriele acted alone or if he was a fall guy for Cardinals involved in internal power struggles within the Curia. These rumors persist even though the Vatican has repeatedly denied that any Cardinals are under investigation.

The Vatican undersecretary of state, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, also lashed out at the brutal attack on the pope's privacy, saying that many of the stolen documents contained the private thoughts and concerns of people who believed they were speaking before God when writing to the Pope.

"It's not just that the pope's papers were stolen, but that people who turned to him as the vicar of Christ have had their consciences violated," Becciu told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

All parties to the leaks are under investigation and the Vatican has promised to take legal action against anyone who was involved in stealing, receiving and disseminating the documents.

This includes Nuzzi, whose book full of stolen documents is experiencing brisk sales.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, said the publication of Nuzzi's Sua Santità (His Holiness) constitutes a "criminal act".

Lombardi promised that the Holy See would "take appropriate steps so that those responsible for the theft answer for their acts before the law".

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