TODAY   |  February 25, 2013

Rumors of scandal swirl around pope’s final days

As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to step down from his position in a matter of days, Italian newspapers are reporting rumors of blackmail and conspiracy. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> but we're following breaking news coming out of the vatican this morning, include iing some rules from pope benedict that change how they pick his replacement.

>> the pope has given the cardinals permission to move up the start date of the conclave which will choose his successor. a cardinal that has been in the headlines for the past 24 hours for all the wrong reasons decides to resign and says he's not coming to the conclave. all this is happening while the faithful celebrate the end of benedict's papacy. even in his final days as pope, scandal continues to dog benedict's papacy and the church. headline rumors of blackmail and conspiracy that the vatican vehemental vehemently denies. because of his role protecting abusive priests, decide to stay home. and cardinal o'brian.

>> someone has erred in some way or another, it doesn't salt their judgment.

>> reporter: today he resigned. ugly headline that is one vatican watcher says will shape the deliberations of the conclave.

>> some of this is politics but other parts of it are the long-delayed reckoning with problems that require face iing and correcting in the church.

>> reporter: the scandals have left many of the faithful weary.

>> i'm a true believer and i hope that catholics will get a better name these days.

>> reporter: despite the controversy, st. peter's square still felt like a well-behaved mosh pit . 100,000 people came to say thank you to the 85-year-old pontiff, speaking from his window for the last time. he says he is not abandoning the church but following god's call to more prayer and meditation. now also this morning, the pope met with the three cardinals who prepared the secret dossier that's been talked about so much here, regarding the vati-leaks incident. the pope says only he has read that report and he will share it with the next pope. savannah?

>> anne thompson at the vatican for us this morning. i will be live at the vatican wednesday and thursday for the pope's final public audience and last day as the leader of the church. matt?