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Vatican blasts new book as 'criminal'; Leaked documents shed light on power struggles

The Vatican has denounced as "criminal" a new book of leaked internal documents that shed light on power struggles inside the Holy See and the thinking of its embattled top banker.

The Vatican warned that it would take legal action against those responsible for the leaks.

Pope Benedict XVI has already appointed a commission of cardinals to investigate the "Vatileaks" scandal, which erupted earlier this year with the publication of memos alleging corruption and mismanagement in Holy See affairs and internal squabbles over its efforts to comply with international anti-money laundering norms.

The publication Saturday of "His Holiness," by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, added fuel to the fire, reproducing confidential letters and memos to and from Benedict and his personal secretary which, according to the Vatican, violated the pope's right to privacy.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement Saturday the book was an "objectively defamatory" work that "clearly assumes characters of a criminal act." He said the Holy See would get to the bottom of who "stole" the documents, who received them and who published them. He warned the Holy See would seek international cooperation in its quest for justice, presumably from Italian magistrates. The Vatican had already warned of legal action against Nuzzi after he broadcast letters in January from the former No. 2 Vatican administrator to the pope in which the prelate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, begged not to be transferred for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros in higher contract prices. Vigano is now the Vatican's U.S. ambassador.

Nuzzi, author of "Vatican SpA," a 2009 volume laying out shady dealings of the Vatican bank based on leaked documents, said he was approached by sources inside the Vatican with new documents, most of them of fairly recent vintage and many of them painting the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light.

Much of the documentation focuses on Italy, including a 2009 scandal over the ex-editor of the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, a never-before-known dinner between Benedict and Italy's president, and even a 2011 letter from Italy's pre-eminent talk show host Bruno Vespa to the pope enclosing a check for (euro) 10,000 for his charity work -- and asking for a private audience in exchange.

But there are international leaks as well, including diplomatic cables from Vatican embassies ranging from Jerusalem to Cameroon. Some concern the conclusions of the pope's delegate to the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order in a memo to the pope last fall. The delegate had warned that the financial condition of the order, beset by a scandal over its pedophile founder, "while not grave, is serious and pressing."

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the head of the Institute for Religious Works, otherwise known as the Vatican's bank, gets significant ink, including reproduced private memos to the pope with his take on the Vatican's response to the global financial crisis and how to handle the church's tax exempt status amid Italian government efforts to crack down on tax evasion.

The bank has been trying for two years to repair its reputation as a shady tax haven beset by scandals, which include the collapse of Italy's Banco Ambrosiano and the death of its head, Roberto Calvi, who also helped manage Vatican investments and was found hanging from London's Blackfriars Bridge in 1982.

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