Cardinals want Vatican talks on corruption claims

Two American cardinals arrive for yesterday's pre-conclave meeting at the Vatican in Rome. Picture: Getty

Two American cardinals arrive for yesterday's pre-conclave meeting at the Vatican in Rome. Picture: Getty

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CARDINALS want to meet Vatican managers over allegations of corruption and cronyism at the highest levels of the Catholic Church before they elect the next pope, as a scandal over leaked documents sets up one of the most unpredictable papal elections in modern times.

The Vatican said 103 of the 115 voting-age cardinals had attended yesterday’s inaugural session of a pre-conclave meeting, at which cardinals organise the election process, discuss the problems of the Church and meet each other.

“I would imagine that as we move along there will be questioning of cardinals involved in the governing of the Curia [Vatican] to see what they think has to be changed – and in that context, anything can come up,” said Cardinal Francis George, of the US.

The Vatican’s administrative shortcomings were laid bare with the publication of documents stolen from Benedict XVI’s desk that exposed petty infighting, turf battles and allegations of corruption, nepotism and cronyism in the highest echelons of the Church. The pope’s butler was convicted of stealing the papers and leaking them to a journalist.

American cardinals are understood to be keen to get to the bottom of the recent scandals, and have had access to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s ambassador to Washington. “They have appreciated him very much because he doesn’t read the Vatican situation with a rosy lens,” Massimo Franco, author of The Crisis of the Vatican Empire, said. The book portrays a Vatican falling apart, with financial scandals at its bank, backstabbing among its leaders and the sex abuse scandal discrediting the Church.

Coupled with the upheaval of Pope Benedict’s resignation, the scandals have contributed to create one of the most unclear papal elections in recent times. “It will be a very open conclave, with a very unpredictable outcome,” Mr Franco said.

No date has been set yet for the conclave and one may not be decided on officially for a few more days, until all the cardinals have arrived. Speculation has mounted that the conclave might begin around 11 March, with the aim of having a new pope installed by the 17th, the start of Holy Week.

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