Pope Benedict XVI could be the target of an assassination plot, according to a document published on Friday by the Il Fatto Quotidiano daily which the Vatican dismissed as "delirious".
The newspaper published a confidential document dated December 30, 2011 which was apparently sent by retired Colombian cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos to the Vatican warning of unspecified plans to kill the pope.
Castrillon Hoyos reportedly met the pope in January to discuss the threat.
The document from the Colombian cardinal says that the plot was mentioned by the archbishop of Palermo Paolo Romeo during a visit to China in November.
Romeo reportedly said that he had heard of a plot to assassinate the pope "within the next 12 months" but did not give further details.
Asked about the reported comments on Friday, however, Romeo said that the words attributed to him were "absolutely without basis."
"It is so outside of reality that it should not be given any consideration," Romeo was quoted by Italian news agency ANSA as saying.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP: "It's clear that this document contains crazy considerations that are devoid of any reality."
Lombardi said he did not deny the existence of the document but added that its contents "should not be taken seriously at all."
According to other comments attributed to Romeo in the document, Benedict now has a very confrontational relationship with the Vatican's powerful Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and is trying to replace him.
Experts said the release of the document could be part of a power struggle within the Vatican administration to try and force Bertone to leave.
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