By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A senior Vatican official who was transferred after he exposed a web of corruption begged to be allowed to continue his crusade and denounced a "vulgar and insolent" cleric behind a plot to destroy him, according to a leaked letter on Friday.
The letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who is now the Vatican's ambassador to Washington, will increase consternation in the Vatican which has been put on the defensive by the growing scandal.
Vigano wrote on May 8, 2011, to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone imploring "your eminence to radically change your opinion of me," according to the letter published by the Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, one of two news organizations which have been leaked the correspondence
Vigano wrote that letter nearly two months after Bertone, the second-most powerful man in the Vatican after the pope, informed him that he was being removed from his position three years before the scheduled end of his tenure.
Letters broadcast on Wednesday by the investigative program "The Untouchables" on the private television La7 showed Vigano was transferred against his will after complaining to Bertone and Pope Benedict about corruption and mismanagement.
The Vatican has not contested the authenticity of the letters, which sometimes read like a Renaissance drama of court intrigue, but has criticized the media's handling of them.
As deputy governor of the Vatican City for two years from 2009 to 2011, Vigano was the number two official in a department responsible for maintaining the tiny city-state's gardens, buildings, streets, museums and other infrastructure.
Vigano said in one of the earlier letters that when he took the job he discovered corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.
In one letter, Vigano writes of a smear campaign against him
by other Vatican officials who were upset that he had taken drastic steps to clean up the purchasing procedures.
In the May 8, 2011, letter published on Friday Vigano, who has not yet commented on the letters, makes a desperate attempt to keep his job and salvage his reputation.
CONSPIRACY INSIDE THE VATICAN WALLS
He names two people, one a monsignor and one a layman, who he says were behind the plot to discredit him and behind anonymous stories criticizing him that were published in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale earlier that year.
In the May letter, Vigano pleads with Bertone to see "the plot to destroy me in the eyes of your eminence."
He also accuses the monsignor of corruption and mismanagement in a previous Vatican post and says that if the Vatican does not discipline him "I will consider it my duty to go to the civil justice system."
Vigano accuses the monsignor of being "vulgar in behavior and language and arrogant and insolent" to staff in the Vatican department where he worked.
He then names a third official, a layman, and accuses him of being responsible for "denigration and calumny against me."
He appeals to the pope not to transfer him, even if it means promotion, because it "would be a defeat difficult for me to accept." In October he was named ambassador to Washington after the sudden death of the previous envoy to the United States.
In another letter to the pope on April 4, 2011, Vigano says he discovered the management of some Vatican City investments was entrusted to two funds managed by a committee of Italian bankers "who looked after their own interests more than ours."
Vigano said Vatican-employed maintenance workers were demoralized because "work was always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican."
For example, when Vigano discovered that the cost of the Vatican's nativity scene in St Peter's Square was an exorbitant 550,000 euros ($720,000)in 2009, he chopped 200,000 euros off the cost for the following Christmas. ($1 = 0.7615 euros)
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Robert Woodward)