Vatican Furious Over 'False' News Reports

AP Photo/L''Osservatore Romano, ho

In an impromptu briefing this morning, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi responded again to the worldwide distribution of "unverified, unverifiable, or even false" news stories.

Lombardi declined to say which specific news stories objects to, but he appeared to be referring to the report, first carried by Italy's Panorama and La Repubblica, claiming Pope Benedict XVI is resigning rather than face the fallout of a scandal involving gay clergy who are supposedly being blackmailed.

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Foreign news outlets have picked up the story today, attributing only the Italian press accounts.

"It is deplorable that there be a widespread distribution of news stories often not verified or verifiable - false even - that seriously damage people and institutions," Lombardi said.

Lombardi accused the news media of meddling in the papal election - just as monarchs, nobles, and dictators sought to do in centuries past.

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In the past, he said, it was the state that tried to pressure the cardinal's decision. "Now there is an attempt to do this through public opinion."