LA PAZ, Bolivia — Cardinal-elect Toribio Ticona of Bolivia, issued a statement Tuesday that strongly denounced rumors that he has a wife and children.

“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,” the bishop emeritus of Corocoro said in a statement released by the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference.

The cardinal-elect said he interprets the rumors as an attack not only against himself, but against Pope Francis, who recently chose him to be elevated to the position of cardinal.

“If these accusations persist, I will have no problem filing a libel lawsuit against those promoting or propagating this,” he said.

Cardinal-elect Ticona, 81, said that similar rumors surfaced in 2011, but “ended up being simple calumny.”

“Personally, I am happy that these accusations should come out at this time, in order to definitively close the case,” he added.

Earlier this week, the blog Adelante la Fe reported that “It is a well-known fact that while (Ticona) was serving his office in Corocoro, he was living (as husband and wife) with a lady in Oruro’s chancery. She and her children are proud to be called wife and children of the Patacamaya bishop, as Bishop Toribio Ticona is also known.”

However, in a May 29 article in Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, journalist Franca Giansoldati reported that the Vatican has carried out “deep investigations” of the claims, which found that “nothing is true” regarding the rumors.

The Vatican has not yet responded publicly to the claims.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis announced that he would be holding a June consistory to create 14 new cardinals who express the “universality” of the Church. Francis made particular note of his election of Bishop Ticona along with two other bishops, saying that they “have distinguished themselves for their service to the Church.”

Cardinal-elect Ticona has been described as a charismatic figure and an advocate for the poor. Upon being named a cardinal by Pope Francis, Bishop Ticona said it was “a great surprise” and that he thanked God for the honor.

Toribio Ticona was born to a poor Bolivian family in 1937, and worked as a shoe shiner, newspaper vendor and a mayor. Influenced heavily by the Belgian priests at his home parish, he entered San Cristóbal seminary in 1960 and was ordained a priest Jan. 29, 1967.

He was named auxiliary bishop of Potosí in 1986, and in 1992 was made the Prelature of Corocoro in La Paz.

After learning of his election as a cardinal, the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference said that “Bishop Toribio embodies the vocation of a humble priest who serves. Our Church joins in giving thanks to the Lord for this gift.”