Saturday 1 October 2016

Vatican reels from encyclical leak

Published 16/06/2015 | 13:46

Pope Francis's first solo encyclical is expected to urge people to pay attention to environmental degradation (AP)
Pope Francis's first solo encyclical is expected to urge people to pay attention to environmental degradation (AP)

There is something of a whodunnit going on in the Vatican to discover who leaked Pope Francis' environment encyclical to an Italian weekly, deflating the release of the most anticipated papal document in recent times.

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L'Espresso magazine published the full 191 pages of "Laudato Si" (Be Praised) on its website on Monday, three days before the official launch.

The encyclical focuses on the environment, with calls for action to protect nature and fight climate change, according to the leaked draft.

The Vatican said the document was just a draft, but most media ran with it, given that it covered many of the same points Francis and his advisers have been making in the run-up to the release.

L'Espresso's veteran Vatican correspondent Sandro Magister said his editor, not he, had obtained the document and decided to publish it.

Mr Magister said he just wrote the brief introduction.

The Vatican has indefinitely suspended the press credentials of Mr Magister, saying the publication had been "incorrect".

In the draft of the encyclical, Francis says global warming is "mostly" due to human activity and the burning of fossil fuels.

He calls for a radical changes in behaviour to save the planet for future generations and prevent the poor from suffering the worst effects of industry-induced environmental degradation.

Several Vatican commentators hypothesised that the leak was aimed at taking the punch out of Thursday's official launch of the encyclical, in which the Vatican has lined up a Catholic cardinal, an Orthodox theologian, an atheist scientist and an economist to discuss the contents.

They noted that conservatives - particularly in the US - attacked the encyclical even before it was released, chiding the Pope for talking science in a church document and insisting that global warming isn't a scientific reality.

It would be in their interest, the argument goes, to fudge the Pope's message.

Italian daily La Stampa suggested that the leak might have come from "conservatives" inside Vatican, noting that Francis' reform plans for the Vatican bureaucracy have been resisted by the more conservative old guard who would have an interest in sabotaging Francis' labour of love.

A leak, however, was to be expected, given that drafts of the document have been circulating for months and that the text had been translated into multiple languages before its official release.

Not to mention that the Vatican has had a long and storied history of leaked documents. The last big scandal in 2012 resulted in the Pope's butler being put on trial for stealing his private papers and passing them off to an Italian journalist.

He was convicted but was eventually pardoned by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.

In the aftermath of the "Vatileaks" scandal, the Vatican City State updated its criminal code to include severe penalties for anyone who leaks a Vatican document or publishes news from it: up to two years in prison and a 5,000 euro (£3,600) fine.

Press Association

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