Cardinal Paolo Romeo, archbishop of Palermo in Sicily, reportedly made the prediction of the pope's death while in China in November during conversations with Italian businessmen and Chinese representatives of the Catholic Church, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
The meeting participants said they thought Romeo was talking about an assassination attempt and reported his remarks to the Vatican.
The comments were included in a report dated Dec 30 and delivered to Pope Benedict in January, the Telegraph said.
The story was reported Friday by an Italian daily, Il Fatto Quotidiano.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the report was "so incredible that we cannot comment on it."
"It seems to me something that is so far from reality that I don't even want to address it," Lombardi said. "It seems an incredible story and I don't want to comment."
The most recent attempt on a pontiff's life was in 1981 when John Paul II was shot and critically wounded in St. Peter's Square by a Turkish gunman with links to a militant group called the Gray Wolves.