ROME -- The Vatican moved quickly Friday to dismiss newspaper reports of a plot to kill the pope.
"These are clearly ramblings, which are not at all taken seriously. This is madness," Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said in a hurriedly-released statement.
Italian media went into a frenzy Thursday night after Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano published a front-page account of a note sent to Benedict XVI by retired Colombian Cardinal Castrillon, Sky Italia TG24 reported.
The note, written in German, tells of an alleged conversation in which the Archbishop of Palermo, Cardinal Romeo, during a visit to China, claimed the pope was in great danger and an attack was feared within 12 months. Romeo also apparently named the pope's probable successor as Cardinal Scola, the current Archbishop of Milan.
Romeo told the ANSA news agency Friday that the words credited to him were "entirely without basis."
"It is so beyond reality that it shouldn't be given any consideration," Romeo said.
The document was dated Dec. 30, 2011, but it was given to the pope in January this year.
Papal conspiracy theories are nothing new. The sudden death of Pope John Paul I, just 33 days after becoming pontiff in 1978, led to a wealth of unfounded stories about plots and poisoning.