Pope Benedict XVI convened a special meeting of cardinals on Saturday for advice on how to deal with the Vatican’s leaked documents scandal — another sign of the damage the leaks have done to trust in the Holy See’s governance.
Benedict was already scheduled to attend a regular meeting of the heads of Vatican offices on Saturday morning. The Vatican press office said he added a second meeting later in the day with other cardinals in a bid to try to “restore a climate of serenity and trust” in the church.
The Vatican said that over the coming days he would meet with still more cardinals gathering in Rome for a church feast day on Friday to “continue the dialogue with the people who share the responsibility of the church’s governance with him.”
The Vatican has been scrambling to contain the damage after the leak of hundreds of Vatican documents exposed corruption, political infighting and power struggles at the highest level of the Catholic Church. The pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, is under arrest at the Vatican, accused of aggravated theft after the pope’s documents were found in his Vatican City apartment.
One Holy See investigation into the links is a criminal one headed by Vatican gendarmes; there is also an internal probe led by a commission of three cardinals tasked with getting to the bottom of the scandal.
On July 16, Benedict met with the cardinals’ commission to learn details of some of the two dozen people they have questioned.
The meetings on Saturday were another indication of the seriousness with which he has taken the scandal and the damage it has done to the trust that is supposed to form the basis of the Vatican’s governance. In another sign the Vatican was taking the matter seriously, it confirmed on Saturday that it was bringing in the Fox News correspondent in Rome, Greg Burke, as a senior communications adviser to help the Vatican craft its communications strategy.
Burke, 52 and a member of the conservative movement Opus Dei, said he would be helping to shape the Vatican’s message and make sure all Vatican departments stick to it. He is leaving Fox News to take the Vatican job.
In a statement, the Vatican said the regularly scheduled meeting with department heads aimed at coordinating the Vatican’s work was “today particularly important and urgent to show efficient witness to the union of spirit that animates the Curia.”
The second meeting on Saturday includes Vatican cardinals, and the archbishops of Sydney and the retired vicar of Rome — two longtime papal advisers.
Benedict also moved to beef up a panel of cardinals tasked with scrutinizing the “organizational and economic problems of the Holy See,” the Vatican said.
He appointed to the panel three cardinals: Polycarp Pengo, an archbishop from Tanzania; and two Asians, Telesphore Toppo, from India, and John Tong Hong, the Hong Kong prelate who was elevated to the rank of cardinal earlier this year by the pontiff.
All three are involved with the Holy See office that bankrolls missionary work abroad.
Two years ago, Italian prosecutors began probing real-estate transactions and other dealings of Naples’ cardinal, an Italian prelate who formerly headed that office.
The Italian authorities have been looking into an alleged web of kickbacks and favors, including purported sexual ones, involving businessmen, church hierarchy and public officials.
Toppo also serves on a cardinals’ watchdog committee for the activities of the Vatican bank.