In memoirs, ex Pope Benedict says Vatican 'gay lobby' tried to wield power -report

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VATICAN CITY, July 1 (Reuters) - Former Pope Benedict says in his memoirs that no-one pressured him to resign but alleges that a "gay lobby" in the Vatican had tried to influence decisions, a leading Italian newspaper reported on Friday.

The book, called "The Last Conversations," is the first time in history that a former pope judges his own pontificate after it is over. It is due to be published on Sept. 9.

Citing health reasons, Benedict in 2103 became the first pope in six centuries to resign. He promised to remain "hidden to the world" and has been living in a former convent in the Vatican gardens.

Italy's Corriere della Sera daily, which has acquired the Italian newspaper rights for excerpts and has access to the book, ran a long article on Friday summarizing its key points.

In the book, Benedict says that he came to know of the presence of a "gay lobby" made up of four or five people who were seeking to influence Vatican decisions. The article says Benedict says he managed to "break up this power group."

Benedict resigned following a turbulent papacy that included the so-call "Vatileaks" case, in which his butler leaked some of his personal letters and other documents that alleged corruption and a power struggle in the Vatican.

Italian media at the time reported that a faction of prelates who wanted to discredit Benedict and pressure him to resign was behind the leaks.

Photos of Pope Benedict before he stepped down:

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In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, right, embraces his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, during a ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Pope Francis has declared his two predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints in an unprecedented canonization ceremony made even more historic by the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI. (AP Photo/L' Osservatore Romano, ho)
In this picture provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, left, welcomes Pope Francis as they exchanged Christmas greetings, at the Vatican, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)
Pope Francis asperses incense as he leads a solemn celebration in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Tens of thousands of people have filled St. Peter's Square for a historic day of four popes, with Popes Francis and Benedict XVI honoring John XXIII and John Paul II by declaring them saints in the first ever canonization of two pontiffs. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, center, arrives in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Tens of thousands of people have filled St. Peter's Square for a historic day of four popes, with Popes Francis and Benedict XVI honoring John XXIII and John Paul II by declaring them saints in the first ever canonization of two pontiffs. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
In this photo provided by the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, left, and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI pray together in Castel Gandolfo Saturday, March 23, 2013. Pope Francis has traveled to Castel Gandolfo to have lunch with his predecessor Benedict XVI in a historic and potentially problematic melding of the papacies that has never before confronted the Catholic Church. The Vatican said the two popes embraced on the helipad. In the chapel where they prayed together, Benedict offered Francis the traditional kneeler used by the pope. Francis refused to take it alone, saying "We're brothers," and the two prayed together on the same one. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO)
ROME, ITALY - MARCH 11: People walk past a poster of Pope Benedict XVI hanging on a wall near Vatican City on March 11, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start on March 12 inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 28: Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims, for the last time as head of the Catholic Church, from the window of Castel Gandolfo where he will start his retirement today on February 28, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Pope Benedict XVI has been the leader of the Catholic Church for eight years and is the first Pope to retire since 1415. He will stay at the Papal Summer residence of Castel Gandolfo until renovations are complete at a monastery in the grounds of the Vatican and will be known as Roman Pope Emeritus. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Benedict XVI blesses faifthful for the last time upon arrival in Castel Gandolfo on February 28, 2013. Once he steps down later in the day, Pope Benedict XVI will begin his retirement in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, a sumptuous villa outside Rome with ornamental gardens, breathtaking views and its own farm. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE,FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 28: A nun looks through a window as she waits for Pope Benedict XVI to address pilgrims, for the last time as head of the Catholic Church, from the window of Castel Gandolfo where he will start his retirement today on February 28, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Pope Benedict XVI has been the leader of the Catholic Church for eight years and is the first Pope to retire since 1415. He will stay at the Papal Summer residence of Castel Gandolfo until renovations are complete at a monastery in the grounds of the Vatican and will be known as Roman Pope Emeritus. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Pope Francis is driven through the crowd after presiding over a solemn ceremony in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Pope Francis has declared his two predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints in an unprecedented canonization ceremony made even more historic by the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)
Pope Francis leads a solemn celebration where two Popes, John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Tens of thousands of people have filled St. Peter's Square for a historic day of four popes, with Popes Francis and Benedict XVI honoring John XXIII and John Paul II by declaring them saints in the first ever canonization of two pontiffs. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI arrives in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, April 27, 2014. Tens of thousands of people have filled St. Peter's Square for a historic day of four popes, with Popes Francis and Benedict XVI honoring John XXIII and John Paul II by declaring them saints in the first ever canonization of two pontiffs. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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POPE'S DIARY

The Church has maintained its centuries-long opposition to homosexual acts.

But rights campaigners have long said many gay people work for the Vatican and Church sources have said they suspect that some have banded together to support each other's careers and influence decisions in the bureaucracy.

Benedict, who now has the title "emeritus pope," has always maintained that he made his choice to leave freely and Corriere says that in the book Benedict "again denies blackmail or pressure."

He says he told only a few people close to him of his intention to resign, fearing it would be leaked before he made the surprise announcement on Feb. 11, 2013.

The former pope, in the book-long interview with German writer Peter Seewald, says he had to overcome his own doubts on the effect his choice could have on the future of the papacy.

He says that he was "incredulous" when cardinals meeting in a secret conclave chose him to succeed the late Pope John Paul II in 2005 and that he was "surprised" when the cardinals chose Francis as his successor in 2013.

Anger over the dysfunctional state of the Vatican bureaucracy in 2013 was one factor in the cardinal electors' decision to choose a non-European pope for the first time in nearly 1,300 years.

Benedict "admits his lack of resoluteness in governing," Corriere says.

In the book, whose lead publisher is Germany's Droemer Knaur, Benedict says he kept a diary throughout his papacy but will destroy it, even though he realizes that for historians it would be a "golden opportunity."


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