Francis walks as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Friday condemned the leaking of documents that according to a media report show a power struggle in the Holy See over economic reforms and excessive expenses by the cardinal charged with carrying them out.
L'Espresso magazine said it had seen minutes of meetings and emails showing mostly Italian cardinals felt that Cardinal George Pell had accumulated too much power.
Pell is an outsider brought by the pope to Rome from Australia to oversee the Vatican's often muddled finances after decades of control by Italians.
Pope Francis was given a mandate by the cardinals who elected him in 2013 to clean up after a series of financial scandals, mostly involving the Vatican bank.
Francis set up the Secretariat for the Economy last year and gave Pell, as its head, broad powers to clean up the Vatican's often troubled and murky finances and bring them in line with international standards.
"Leaking confidential documents to the media in order to stir up polemics and fuel arguments is nothing new but it is always something to be condemned and is illegal," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.
Lombardi said it was "normal" to have disagreements on complex financial and legal issues and condemned the article as "undignified and petty" because of its personal attack on Pell. Pell could not be reached for comment.
The magazine said Pell's department had run up half a million euros in expenses in its first six months, mostly on staff and equipment but some spending was personal, including 2,508 euros ($2,813) for clerical clothing Pell allegedly bought from a well-known clerical tailor in Rome.
It also said the department had spent tens of thousands of euros to renovate and furnish a Rome apartment for use by a business manager who the cardinal brought over from Australia to help him clean up Vatican finances.
The spokesman said Pell's department was moving ahead with reforms and would in a few months publish for the first time financial statements for 2014 for each Vatican department.
The "Vatileaks" scandal in 2012, in which the butler of former Pope Benedict, Francis' predecessor, was arrested for leaking the pope's private papers to the media, alleged corruption in the Holy See, something the Vatican denied.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Louise Ireland)