(VATICAN CITY) -- As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to step down from the papacy this Thursday, the Vatican has also been forced to deal with reports in the Italian media about an alleged scandal involving gay clergy being blackmailed.
During an impromptu briefing on Saturday, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi again responded to the worldwide distribution of “unverified, unverifiable, or even false” news stories that surfaced last week.
Lombardi declined to say which specific reports the Vatican objects to although he appeared to be referring to the report, first carried by Italy’s Panorama and La Repubblica, claiming Benedict is resigning rather than facing the fallout of allegations regarding gay priests.
Foreign news outlets picked up the story on Saturday, attributing only the Italian press accounts, further distressing the Vatican.
The spokesman accused the news media of meddling in the papal election, adding that in the past, it was the state that tried to pressure the cardinals' decision regarding the election of a pope.
"Now there is an attempt to do this through public opinion," according to Lombardi.
In spite of all the controversy, Pope Benedict led his final Angelus blessing on Sunday before tens of thousands in Saint Peter's Square as cardinals from around the world converge on the Vatican preparing to choose his successor to lead the world's Rome Catholic Church.
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