POPE Benedict XVI resigned after receiving an inquiry outlining the influence of "gay officials" in the Vatican, an Italian newspaper has sensationally claimed.
The newspaper 'La Repubblica' said that the Pontiff decided to resign the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the 'Vatileaks' affair.
This was the scandal whereby the Pope's own butler stole sensitive internal letters to the Pontiff and passed them off to a journalist, who then published them in a blockbuster book.
The newspaper said the cardinals' report described a number of factions, including one whose members were "united by sexual orientation".
'La Repubblica' said the dossier identified a series of meeting places for the faction including a villa, sauna, and a beauty parlour – and also alleged blackmail.
It reported that factions in the Vatican were breaking the sixth and seventh commandments – which forbid theft and adultery. The seventh commandment is also linked to forbidding homosexual acts.
Some analysts speculate that the revelations at the very least accelerated Benedict's decision to resign.
The newspaper said the Pope had taken the decision on December 17 that he was going to resign – shortly after receiving the dossier. It said the "two volumes of almost 300 pages – bound in red" have now been locked in a safe – to be delivered to the Pope's successor.
This is the latest twist in a series of theories and conspiracy claims which have taken root after the Pontiff's shock decision to resign earlier this month.
The feverish speculation circulating about the Pope's decision to step down is perhaps unsurprising.
Pope Benedict XVI is the first to resign his position in six centuries, and his tenure was rocked by several scandals – not least the papers leaked by his butler Paolo Gabriele.
Gabriele was found guilty of having stolen confidential documents from the papal apartment, although last December 22 the Pope chose to pardon him.
Cardinals who will vote in next month's conclave are openly talking about the need for reform, particularly given the dysfunction exposed by the scandal.
Pope Benedict XVI was well aware of the problems, having spent nearly a quarter-century in the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
But he never entered into the Vatican's political fray as a cardinal – and as pope left it to his number two, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to do the job.