The theological conservatives are led by the powerful Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Angelo Bagnasco, the Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
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The power struggle also involved the former Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and his successor Bertone. According to the leaks, Sodano was trying to sideline Bertone in favour of one of his proteges.
Resigning would have been the only move for Benedict to "reset" everything, and give the Roman Catholic Church the possibility of a new start, according to the Italian daily La Repubblica.
"It has been an act of rupture. By stepping down, Benedict XVI has put to an end Bertone's ‘government' and the power struggle which has been poisoning the Vatican," La Repubblica wrote.
A day before resigning Benedict tweeted: "We must trust in the mighty power of God's mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new."
Image: Bitter rivalries between groups of cardinals might be one of the reasons for Benedict XVI's resignation. Credit: Lothar Wolleh/Wikimedia Commons.