The extraordinary comments were written up in a top-secret report, dated Dec 30, 2011, and delivered to the Pope by a senior cardinal, Dario Castrillon Hoyos, a Colombian, in January.
Now, there is denial all around. But, Squire writes that: Cardinal Romeo also named Benedict's XVI likely successor as Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan – meaning the papacy would return to an Italian after the German Benedict and his Polish predecessor, John Paul II.
He allegedly told his contacts in China that Pope Benedict could not stand Tarcisio Bertone, his Secretary of State and the Vatican's second most senior figure, amid reports of bitter power struggles going on within the Holy See.
However, the Vatican is now denying such a report or investigation.
The Vatican's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the report was "so incredible that we cannot comment on it".