Pope rounds on rival cardinals and their 'sins against unity'

Ash Wednesday speech hints Vatican power struggles were real reason  for shock resignation

Pope Benedict used last night's Ash Wednesday mass to deliver a withering and extraordinary blast at the warring factions in the Vatican's upper-echelons, whose power struggles many believe influenced the Pontiff's historic decision to stand down.

Earlier on Wednesday, during the general audience, the Pontiff had alluded to the need for church figures to avoid the temptations of power and privilege.

But yesterday evening his warning was clearer. “We must reflect on how the face of the Church is marred by sins against unity and division of the ecclesiastical body. We must overcome individualism and rivalry,” he told great and the good of the curia assembled in St Peter’s Basilica. “The true disciple does not serve himself or the public, but the Lord.

“Many are ready to get on their high horse over scandals and injustices – obviously committed by others – but few seem able to act according to the real wishes of their own hearts and consciences.”

Pundit Gerard O’Connell of the Vatican Insider said: “This was a very, very, clear and strongly worded speech. It was an appeal for an end to the personal rivalries and of people competing to put themselves in high profile positions. I think Benedict is passing messages to the cardinals and to those who will succeed him.”

Benedict cited advancing age and declining health in his resignation announcement on Monday. Reports suggest the head injury he sustained after falling during a trip to Mexico last year was another factor behind his shock decision to stand down.

Many have speculated that a raft of scandals within the Vatican lies, at least in part, behind his decision to quit, however.

Those scandals culminated last year with the conviction of Paolo Gabriele, the pope's ex-butler, who was found guilty of leaking confidential papal memos suggesting corruption and intrigue within the Holy See to the Italian press.

But many Vatican watchers believe a confidential report into Vatileaks commissioned by Benedict may have revealed evidence of power struggles and a more far-reaching conspiracy to discredit his papacy and his deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

La Repubblica newspaper suggested that Benedict’s criticism yesterday may have been aimed at three of the Vatican’s most powerful figures: the secretary of state Cardinal Bertone, his predecessor, Angelo Sodano, the current dean of the College of Cardinals, and the head of the Bishops Conference, Angelo Bagnasco.

It claimed that Cardinal Bertone was already at loggerheads with his two rivals as senior figures jockeyed for power  and influence in the run up to the Conclave in mid-March, which will elected Benedict’s successor.

Meanwhile, as one of last significant appointments under Benedict’s reign, a new head of the Vatican Bank, the IOR, in expected within the next few days. Pundits believe a foreigner is likely to be brought in to clean up bank’s reputation.

The IOR has been without a president since May 2012 when its Italian head Ettore Gotti Tedeschi resigned, following a no-confidence vote by the board of directors of the bank. This provoked a series of accusation and counter claims between Mr Tedeschi and the Holy See regarding the management of the scandal-hit financial institution.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy