PRAGUE — Pope Benedict XVI, struggling to tame intrigue, won't give cardinals access to a secret Vatican dossier into leaked papal documents before they meet next month to elect his successor.
Benedict, 85, who on Thursday will become the first pontiff in 600 years to retire, met with the three cardinals tasked to investigate the case known as Vatileaks, the Holy See press office said in a statement Monday. The episode led last year to the arrest of the pope's personal butler in one of the worst security breaches in modern Vatican history.
The pontiff thanked Cardinals Julian Herranz, Jozef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi for work that "made it possible to detect, given the limitations and imperfections of the human factor in every institution, the generosity and dedication of those who work with uprightness and generosity in the Holy See," according to the statement. Still, "the acts of this investigation," known only to Benedict, "will remain solely at the disposition of the new pope."
The German-born pope is preparing to make his last public appearance Wednesday amid a wave of controversy, including the resignation of Britain's most senior Catholic cleric following allegations of his "inappropriate" behavior toward priests.
Speculation that a frail Benedict has struggled to stem intrigue has been fueled by his own words. In his final address Saturday to the Curia, the bureaucracy that runs the Vatican, the pope lamented the "evil, suffering and corruption" that has defaced the church. He announced on Feb. 11 he would leave office because he no longer had the strength to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Last week, Italian magazine Panorama and La Repubblica newspaper reported the pope had decided to resign in December after receiving the secret dossier, the result of the probe into the leaks case that allegedly detailed a network of sex and graft in the Vatican and suggested some prelates' conduct made them vulnerable to blackmail. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the media reports don't "correspond to reality."