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Wild Rumored Threats Against Pope Serve As Backdrop For Dolan Pilgrimage To Rome

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- This week hundreds of New Yorkers are traveling to Rome to witness as Archbishop Timothy Dolan becomes a cardinal.

What they'll find is the "eternal city" buzzing about an alleged plot against Pope Benedict, reports CBS 2's Tony Aiello.

It's the strangest episode in the six-year papacy of Benedict XVI. Italian newspapers have run headlines reading more like Hollywood scripts.

"Plot Against The Pope -- He Will Die Within 12 Months," says one.

Another paper asked dramatically, "Who Wants To Kill The Pope?"

"I think the idea of a plot to kill the pope is a bit farfetched," said David Gibson, who works for Vatican Radio and has written a biography of Pope Benedict.

Gibson said the alleged death plot was revealed in a letter delivered to the pope by a retired cardinal. The Vatican said the letter is real, but the threat is "rubbish."

"The Vatican is like a medieval court and you've got rumors and power struggles going on," Gibson said.

Gibson said a story like this shows the pope is not firmly in command of the Vatican bureaucracy.

"Pope Benedict XVI is a theologian at heart. He's not an administrator," Gibson said. "There is in a sense something behind this story in that it's indicative of the jockeying that's going on in the Vatican, especially among the Italian cardinals and various Italian factions."

In the wake of these eyebrow-raising reports, the consistory this weekend gives the Church the chance to refocus the attention on something more positive.

Along with a cardinal's hat, the pope is giving Archbishop Dolan a big honor: Dolan will deliver the opening remarks as the consistory begins.

It's a celebratory ritual -- after a week of bizarre rumors.

The pope has also been buffeted by another leak: a former top official has alleged corruption and waste with Vatican finances.

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