THE POPE has launched a stinging attack against the media, saying that it had led the church into "profanity" by spreading a message that Catholicism had to modernise and become more inclusive.
Just two weeks before he steps down as Pontiff, Benedict XVI told a group of priests in the Vatican that, as a result, some church services had become little more than community meetings.
The 85-year-old Pope blamed the media for twisting and misrepresenting the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, presenting them as the beginning of a transfer of power from the Vatican to individual bishops and congregations. "The media saw the council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world," he said.
As a result, some churches had misunderstood the intent of the Second Vatican Council, losing their focus on the liturgy "as an act of faith" and instead trying to make it "understandable, similar to a community activity".
"Sacredness ended up as profanity even in worship: worship is not worship but an act that brings people together," he said.
However, after five decades, he hoped that the "true Council" would be understood and the church "truly renovated".
The Pontiff has spent much of his eight-year Papacy seeking to correct 'misinterpretation' of the council, in which he was involved as a young priest.
But his unscripted and forceful comments also raise the possibility that he will continue to exert a strong influence on the church, despite promises by the Vatican that he will spend his retirement in seclusion.
Not only will Benedict live in a monastery within the Vatican walls, just a few hundred yards from the papal apartments, but he will also have a direct line of communication to the new Papacy through Msgr Georg Ganswein (56), who will remain as his personal secretary and live with him, while continuing his role as head of the papal household, managing the new Pontiff's affairs.
Cardinals and Vatican observers have expressed concern that there will be no clean break between the two papacies, with Benedict casting a shadow.