ROME - An unnamed cardinal is suspected of being a leading mole behind a series of embarrassing leaks of confidential papal documents, the Italian media reported on Monday.
"A cardinal led the crow," read the headline in Il Messaggero, referring to Pope Benedict XVI's personal butler Paolo Gabriele who was arrested last week in the "Vatileaks" scandal after secret papers were found in his home.
"The real brains are the cardinals. Then there are the monsignors, secretaries and smaller fry," according to one source quoted by La Repubblica.
Gabriele, who has worked at the Vatican since 2006 and was one of a select few with access to the pope's private quarters, was arrested a month after the pope set up a special commission of cardinals to probe the leaks.
The documents, splashed in the Italian press and in a book, have shed light on many Vatican secrets, including the Church's tax problems, the funding of Catholic bodies, child sex scandals and negotiations with hardline traditionalist rebels.
Although they do not reveal any great surprises, the secret papers have lifted the lid on deep-seated venom among rival figures in the Vatican.
Gabriel's arrest was greeted with disbelief as the 46-year-old was known for his devotion and loyalty to the pope and there has been speculation he was a simply a pawn in a game of intrigue and struggle for power inside the Holy See.
One source quoted by La Repubblica said the mole behind the leaks had acted in support of the pope "because the goal was to reveal the corruption within the Church over the past few years".
"There are those who oppose Cardian Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, those who think Benedict XVI is too weak to lead the Church and those who think this is the right time to move forward," the source said.
The source also said the pope was deeply affected by the sacking last week of Vatican Bank president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi following a spate of financial scandals.
"He (the pope) began to cry and then he became angry and vowed that the truth will come out," the source said.
Gotti Tedeschi was ousted on Thursday after no-confidence vote over his failure to clean up the image of the bank and has also been named as a possible source of leaked documents about the institution.