Pope Benedict XVI leads his Wednesday general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI: Plot victim? (Reuters)

The Vatican has rejected as "unbelievable" claims made by an Italian newspaper that claimed a confidential Vatican document warning that Pope Benedict XVI will die within a year.

The exclusive report was announced on an Italian internet-based TV show. Daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidano published on its front page a "leaked" Vatican document submitted to the Pope in January by Vatican Cardinal Dario Catrillon Hoyos.

Hoyos quoted the Archbishop of Palermo, Paolo Romeo, allegedly expressing concern on a trip to China over the health of the pope. He had "only another 12 months left to live", Romeo was quoted as saying.

His remarks were made with such certainty and firmness that his interlocutors in China were convinced it eas a genuine plot, the document said in a translation by DPA agency.

Written in German, the document also quoted Romeo as referring to an internal fight within the Church with the pope in conflicting relations with Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State.

Romeo suggested that the pontiff was paving the way for the Archibishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola, to succeed him in case Bertone gained more influence in the Vatican.

The Vatican dismissed the report as a "rant that should not be taken seriously in any way".

Romeo said the remarks attributed to him were groundless and unreal. Daily La Stampa's main Vatican expert, Andrea Tornielli, claimed, however, that the document was authentic, although inconclusive and inconsistent.