A rather feverish mood around the Vatican today: La Repubblica’s sensational splash suggesting that Pope Benedict XVI was pushed out by a ‘gay mafia’ within the Church hierarchy has set Latin tongues wagging. Lurid whispers about sex and bribery abound. The theory – given wind by Benedict’s Ash Wednesday statement that opposition ‘mars the face of the church’ – is that the Pope was so appalled by the findings of the top secret 300-page dossier he commissioned into the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal, he decided he couldn’t go on.

It’s all rather intoxicatingly Italian, even if it sounds a bit too much like a pastiche to be true. More sober voices point out that journalism here is always incredibly hyperbolic and La Repubblica is on the wackier fringe. Others add that Pope Benedict XVI is hardly the sort of character to throw in the towel. So for now, at least, it would be better not to take the rumours with a pinch of holy salt.

That said, there seems little doubt that senior people in Rome are very worried about this dossier. How will the next Pontiff – whoever he may be – handle it?

Tags: Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholicism, Vatican