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Vatican decries efforts to influence conclave, ‘profoundly unjust’ media coverage

Catholic World News - February 25, 2013

The Vatican Secretariat of State has released a strongly worded statement denouncing efforts to influence the upcoming papal conclave, especially through the secular media.

The February 23 statement notes that the Holy See has always strongly defended the freedom of the College of Cardinals to choose a Pontiff without external influence. In the past, the threats to the cardinals’ freedom usually came from state power, the Vatican statement notes. But “today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion.”

The Secretariat of State denounced the “widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable, or even completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.” These stories, the statement said, are based on “political or worldly logic” and ignore the essential spiritual dimension of the Church.

The Vatican statement appeared to be an indirect response to a spate of recent stories in the Italian media, alleging that a commission of cardinals investigating the "Vatileaks" scandal uncovered a homosexual network inside the Vatican. The Vatican press office has declined to comment on that report.

The director of the Holy See Press Office also devoted much of his weekly editorial to “profoundly unjust” media coverage of the Church in the wake of Pope Benedict’s resignation.

“The journey of the Church in these last weeks of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate and up until the election of the new Pope—passing through the sede vacante and the conclave—is very demanding, given the newness of the situation,” wrote Father Federico Lombardi, SJ. “We do not—and we rejoice—have to carry the pain of the death of a much-loved Pope, but we have not been spared another test: that of the multiplication of the pressures and considerations that are foreign to the spirit with which the Church would like to live this period of waiting and preparation.”

“There is no lack, in fact, of those who seek to profit from the moment of surprise and disorientation of the weak-minded to sow confusion and to discredit the Church and its governance, making recourse to old tools, such as gossip, misinformation and sometimes slander, or exercising unacceptable pressures to condition the exercise of the voting duty on the part of one or another member of the College of Cardinals, who they consider to be objectionable for one reason or another,” he continued.

Father Lombardi added:

In the majority of cases, those who present themselves as judges, making heavy moral judgments, do not, in truth, have any authority to do so. Those who consider money, sex and power before all else and are used to reading diverse realities from these perspectives, are unable to see anything else, even in the Church, because they are unable to gaze toward the heights or descend to the depths in order to grasp the spiritual dimensions and reasons of existence. This results in a description of the Church and of many of its members that is profoundly unjust.

But all of this will not change the attitude of believers; it will not erode the faith and the hope with which they see the Lord, who promised to accompany his Church. According to the indications of Church law and tradition, we want this to be a time of sincere reflection on the spiritual expectations of the world and on the faithfulness of the Church to the Gospel, of prayer for the assistance of the Spirit, of closeness to the College of Cardinals that is preparing for the demanding service of discernment and choice that is asked of it and for which it principally exists.

In this, we are accompanied first and foremost by the example and spiritual integrity of Pope Benedict, who wanted to dedicate to prayer, from the start of Lent, this final stretch of his pontificate — a penitential journey of conversion toward the joy of Easter. This is how we are living it and how we will live it: in conversion and hope.

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