VATICAN CITY - In his first public comments on the latest scandal rocking the Vatican, Pope Francis told followers in St. Peter's Square on Sunday that the theft of Vatican documents describing financial malfeasance inside the Holy See was a "crime" but pledged to continue reforms.
The pope said that publishing the documents in two books released last week "was a deplorable act that doesn't help." The books, "Merchants in the Temple" by Gianluigi Nuzzi and "Avarice" by Emiliano Fittipaldi detail mismanagement and alleged greed in the Vatican, and are seen as part of a bitter internal struggle between reformers and the old guard.
"This sad fact will certainly not distract me from the reform work that I and my collaborators are pursuing with the support of all of you," the pope said to cheers from the crowd.
Among the disclosures in "Merchants in the Temple," Nuzzi writes that the cost of sainthood can run up to half a million dollars and tells the tale of a monsignor who allegedly broke down the wall of his neighbor, an ailing priest, to expand his apartment.
The pope underlined the documents were the result of the reform course that he instituted and that measures had already been taken to address the problems, which he said had started to show results.
"I thank you and I ask you to continue to pray for the pope and the Church without being upset" by the disclosures, the pope said.
Pope Francis has made it a top priority to reform the Vatican bureaucracy known as the Curia, a hive of intrigue and gossip. He appointed a commission of eight experts in 2013 to gather information and make recommendations after an earlier expose helped drive his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to a historic resignation. Two former members of that commission have been arrested as part of an investigation into the stolen documents.