Bolivian cardinal-designate Toribio Ticona has strongly rejected rumours that he has a wife and children.
In a statement on Tuesday, the 81-year-old retired bishop denounced the accusations and threatened to sue the people making them.
“As a result of the false accusation which is being spread in the media regarding my private life, it is my duty to declare and emphatically make clear that its content does not correspond to the truth,” he said.
“If these accusations persist, I will have no problem filing a libel lawsuit against those promoting or propagating this.”
Bishop Ticona said the rumours were being spread not only as an attack against himself but also against Pope Francis, who named him as a cardinal last Sunday.
“Personally, I am happy that these accusations should come out at this time, in order to definitively close the case,” the bishop added. He said the rumours first surfaced in 2011, but became “simple calumny”.
The cardinal-designate issued the denial after the website Adelante La Fe claimed it was a “well known fact” that Bishop Ticona was “living with a lady in Oruro’s chancery” while Prelate of Corocoro.
“She and her children are proud to be called wife and children of the Patacamaya bishop, as Bishop Toribio Ticona is also known,” the website said.
However, Italian newspaper Il Messaggero said the Vatican had investigated the rumours and found that “nothing is true”.
Bishop Ticona will be formally become in cardinal in June, when Pope Francis holds a consistory in Rome. The Pope named 14 new cardinals from 11 different nations on Pentecost to “express the universality of the Church, which continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all people of the earth.”
At the age of 81, Bishop Ticona will be one of three new cardinals to be too old to participate in a conclave to elect the next pope.