In a communique issued on Saturday, the Office of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See which is headed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, decried the use of false news stories as a means to influence the upcoming Conclave.
Affirming that the freedom to choose a new pontiff by the College of Cardinals has been strongly defended, the communique stated that throughout history Cardinals have faced pressures in order to base decisions on “political or worldly logic.”
“If in the past, the so-called powers, i.e., States, exerted pressures on the election of the Pope, today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion that is often based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the Church is living,” the statement read.
“It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the Conclave and the Cardinal electors will be held in conscience and before God, to freely indicate their choice, that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories, that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”
The communique is a response to the many false news stories that have been circulating throughout various newspapers in Italy and the world that speculate on reasons to Pope Benedict’s resignation as well as speculating on possible scandals.
In a press conference last week, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi dismissed the various reports as “pure fantasy” and called for honest and respectable journalism.
The statement from the Secretariat of State concluded by calling on Catholics to focus on what is most important: “praying for Pope Benedict, praying also that the Holy Spirit enlighten the College of Cardinals, praying for the future Pope, confident that the fate of the ship of Peter is in the hands of God.”