Vatican lashes out at pre-conclave reporting

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican has lashed out at the media for what it says are a series of defamatory and false media reports before the conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI's successor, saying they're an attempt to influence the election.

It deplored that cardinals have been exposed to "a diffusion of news that is often unverified, unverifiable and actually false, with serious damage to people and institutions."

Italian newspapers have reported that some cardinals will not take part in the selection of the new pope, saying that Vatican officials want to keep certain cardinals out of the decision if they have previously defended sexually abusive priests.

The papers have started profiling cardinals whose presence at the conclave "is an embarrassment."

The Vatican secretariat of state said in a statement Saturday the Catholic Church has for centuries insisted on the independence of cardinals to elect their pope. Now, it said, "the weight of public opinion is in play."

Italian media have been rife with reports about the contents of a secret dossier prepared by three cardinals into the origins of the leaks of Vatican documents.

Officials hope to have the election of the new pope completed by Easter.

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