The Vatican has denied reports from the Italian media which claimed that Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation was down to pressure from a “gay lobby” within the Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict announced on 11 February that he would resign at the end of the month, citing a decline in mental and physical ability as his reason for giving up the taxing position.

Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica published an article on Thursday claiming that Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign was in part finalised by a Vatican report showing that the Holy See was affected by outside influences, including a “gay lobby”.

The secretariat of state at the Vatican released a statement saying: “It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave … that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”

This statement came as the Pope attended his final meeting with senior clerics, during which he reflected upon the “evil, suffering and corruption” which had damaged God’s earth.

Pope Benedict spoke at the end of a week-long spiritual retreat, during which Italian cardinal, Gianfranco Ravasi led the Vatican on meditations covering many topics including a denouncement of the “divisions, dissent, careerism, jealousies”, which affect the Vatican organisation, reports the Guardian.

Cardinals from around the globe have been arriving at the Vatican for the final days of Benedict XVI’s papacy, and to attend the conclave to elect his successor.

Reports suggest that bureaucratic reform will be an important role expected of the next pope.

Last week, La Repubblica newspaper, which claimed it received the information from an unnamed Vatican source, said that Pope Benedict commissioned a report in response to the so-called Vatileaks scandal of last year.

It culminated with the arrest and subsequent conviction of the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, found guilty of having stolen confidential documents from the papal apartment.

The report was carried out by Cardinals Julian Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi, and Pope Benedict XVI read the results on 17 December.

The paper claimed that it hardened his resolve to step down as leader of the Catholic Church, in a landmark resignation the likes of which had not been seen by the Church in 600 years.

The report is said to say that there was widespread breaking of commandments within the Holy See, in particular the seventh commandment, “thou shalt not steal”, and the sixth, “thou shalt not commit adultery”.

The breaking of the seventh commandment was blamed on a “gay lobby” influencing the Holy See to commit sexual offences.

It referred to the “worldly nature” and “outside influence” of the lobby.

La Repubblica had suggested that the lobby could be linked to the 2010 Vatican scandal in which a papal gentleman-in-waiting was found to be using male prostitutes.