VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI's deputy denounced the continued leaks of Vatican documents Monday, and said the pope isn't intimidated by the "fierce" and "organized" attacks they represent.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, made his first public comments about the scandal in an interview with state-run RAI television. Bertone's leadership has attracted much criticism, and many commentators see the leaks of confidential Vatican documents as an attempt to discredit him and force his resignation.
The scandal represents one of the greatest security breaches at the Vatican, with dozens of letters, memos and other documents from the pope's desk appearing in a new book "His Holiness," by Italian investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi.
Benedict's butler has been arrested in the case and detained for nearly two weeks, accused of having papal documents in his apartment. He is to be questioned by Vatican prosecutors this week and has pledged to cooperate.
But new documents appeared in the Italian media on Monday, suggesting that there were other sources of the leaks.
Bertone told RAI that despite the scandal, the pope's collaborators were united behind him. He said Benedict "isn't intimidated by attacks of any type."
Bertone said there have always been attacks against the church, but that this time around they are more "fierce, divisive and organized."
"Those who are near him and work by his side are sustained by the pope's great moral force," he said, reading from notecards.
The papers in "His Holiness" include letters to the pope and his private secretary, bank statements, and a handwritten memo the pope's personal secretary wrote in his native German about a meeting with a member of the disgraced Legion of Christ.
The documents expose episodes of political infighting, intrigue and accusations of corruption and homosexual liaisons going on under the watch of the 85-year-old Benedict. Taken together with other leaks that have emerged in the Italian press in recent months, they paint a picture of the church's governance in disarray.
On Sunday, Rome daily La Repubblica published three new documents, including a cover letter from a purported mole saying the butler, Paolo Gabriele, was being made a scapegoat. He said there were hundreds more documents.
None of the documents published to date are terribly damaging. But their very existence and the fact that they were taken from the pope's own desk has provoked an unprecedented reaction from the Vatican. A criminal probe, an internal investigation headed by three cardinals and an administrative whodunit is under way.
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