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Papal catmysterylives on

For Pope Benedict XVI, the cat is not quite out of the bag.

Organizers of the Catholic youth festival in Sydney say they borrowed a gray cat named Bella to help the feline-loving pontiff pass the time at his retreat in Australia's bush country, according to front-page stories in Australian newspapers.

But Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi, pressed by reporters, said he has no knowledge of any cat.

And so is born another of those Vatican mysteries that surround the lives of popes. Vatican officials are reluctant to reveal even small details out of both respect for a pontiff's privacy and fear of damaging the position's mystique.

Reporters are not allowed inside the compound, and the only visitors so far have been aides, a few high-ranking Australian church officials and members of a local symphony orchestra that played on two successive days for Benedict.

Sydney newspapers also reported that the pope was sent a cake shaped like a piano – a reference to his favorite pastime.

Benedict is known to like cats, and before he became pope he looked after strays in his old neighborhood near the Vatican, according to the accounts of fellow residents.

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