BY VIVIANE HEWITT IN ROME
THE VATICAN HAS denied speculation in Rome that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, controversial Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will retire.
In a statement issued last week, Pope John Paul II's spokesman, Joaquin NavarroValls, dismissed rumours that the watchdog of Catholic orthodoxy was soon to be replaced by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Camillo Ruini.
Speculation over the imminent retirement of Cardinal Ratzinger has been growing for months, with some reports claiming that Ratzinger had already indicated his desire to retire to a monastery in Bavaria earlier this year, but that the Pope asked him to stay on. The Pope went on to appoint Cardinal Ratzinger for another fiveyear term last March.
Vatican insiders point to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the current Cardinal Vicar of Rome and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, as the man tipped to succeed Ratzinger.
This move would appease malcontents at the Vicariat the Pope's representative office in Rome who have been campaigning for the unpopular Ruini's transfer.
The Cardinal Vicar has been under attack in the past few week for his outspoken appeals to Italian Catholics to vote Christian Democrat in forthcoming elections.
His declaration resulted in an apparent Vatican "correction" of the cardinal, reiterating the Church's traditional reluctance to promote any particular political parry.
However, in what is being interpreted as open support for Ruini from afar, Pope John Paul said in Madrid last week that Catholics should guarantee an "individual and associate" presence in politics, upholding Christian values.
But priests at the Vicariat have complained that Cardinal Ruini, who is in charge of Rome's 330 parishes, is "remote and out of touch".