Pope moves top official amid leaks fallout
By Nicole Winfield ,APVATICAN CITY -- The pope on Friday transferred a top official from the Vatican's secretariat of state to Colombia amid swirling media speculation about the contents of a confidential report into the Vatican's leaks scandal.
February 23, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, insisted the transfer of Monsignor Ettore Balestrero had been months in the works and had nothing to do with the leaks investigation or what the Vatican considers baseless reporting.
Balestrero was named undersecretary of the Vatican's Foreign Ministry in 2009 and, among other tasks, has been a lead player in the Holy See's efforts to get on the “white list” of financially transparent countries. Pope Benedict XVI on Friday named him ambassador, or nunzio, to Colombia.
Italian newspapers for days have been rife with unsourced reports about the contents of the dossier, presented to Benedict in December, that three cardinals prepared after investigating the origins of the leaks. The scandal erupted last year after papers taken from the pope's desk were published in a blockbuster book. The pope's butler was convicted in October of aggravated theft, and later pardoned.
The Vatican has refused to comment on the media reports, which have claimed the contents of the dossier were a factor in Benedict's decision to resign. Benedict himself has said he simply no longer has the “strength of mind and body” to be pope.
Lombardi has indicated that Benedict would meet with the three cardinals before stepping down Feb. 28.
Balestrero was head of the Holy See's delegation to the Council of Europe's Moneyval committee, which evaluated the Vatican's anti-money laundering and anti-terror financing measures. The Vatican submitted itself to Moneyval's evaluation in a bid to improve its reputation in the financial world.
The Vatican passed the test on the first try in August, and Moneyval said it had made great progress in a short amount of time. But the Holy See received poor or failing grades for its financial watchdog agency and its bank, long the source of some of the Vatican's more storied scandals.
Some of the documents leaked in the midst of the “Vatileaks” scandal concerned differences of opinion about the level of financial transparency the Holy See should provide about the bank, the Institute for Religious Works.