Ousted cardinal lashes out at Vatican 'vipers'

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis's "prime minister" Tarcisio Bertone has lashed out against Vatican "moles and vipers" after it was announced he is being replaced with a top diplomat.

Secretary of State Bertone has been a powerful and divisive figure at the top of the Vatican hierarchy.

His tenure coincided with dark moments for the Catholic Church, like the explosion of revelations about child abuse by priests and damaging leaks that pointed to intrigue and corruption in the Vatican.

The comments from the 78-year-old Italian cardinal, who was appointed by the previous pope Benedict XVI, were quoted by Italian media on Monday.

The Vatican said on Saturday he would be replaced on October 15 by veteran diplomat Pietro Parolin, who is currently the Vatican's envoy to Venezuela.

"Of course there were a lot of problems, particularly in the last two years and some accusations were levied against me," Bertone said.

"There was a web of moles and vipers. But this should not darken what I see as a positive overall result.

"We missed some things, also because problems were kept locked away by some people who did not contact the Secretariat of State," he said.

The Secretariat of State is a key Vatican institution which is effectively the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.