Pope Benedict XVI will die within a year, according to a top-secret document published on Friday by the Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano.
Dismissed by the Vatican as "nonsense not to be taken seriously," the anonymous report is dated Dec 30, 2011.
Like a Dan Brown-style thriller, the leaked document reveals a power struggle within the Vatican. The paper predicts the Pope's death by November 2012 and details the measures that are already being taken to prepare his successor.
According to the Italian daily, the letter was delivered in early January to the Vatican secretary of state and the pope's private secretary by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos of Colombia.
Written in German and labelled "strictly confidential for the Holy Father," the "mordkomplott" begins by describing the conversations that Cardinal Paolo Romeo, the archbishop of Palermo, allegedly had last November with Italian businessmen during a trip to Beijing, China.
"During his talks in China, Cardinal Romeo predicted the death of Pope Benedict XVI within the next 12 months. His remarks were expressed with such resolution that his interlocutors thought, with a sense of alarm, that an attack on the Pope's life was being plotted," the document says.