What Did Senior Vatican Officials Know? Catholic National Register
VATICAN CITY – A major question about the upcoming Vatican trial over a real estate deal in London that resulted in massive losses for the Holy See is how much and when senior Vatican officials were made aware of the deal – and whether they will also be summoned to trial.
A 488 page indictment issued a subpoena on July 2 for the trial of 10 people – the most prominent is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former Deputy Secretary of State. The trial set to begin on July 27 follows a two-year investigation into the London property deal.
The other people summoned to appear are René Brülhart, former president of the AIF, the Vatican’s financial supervisory and information authority; Mgr. Mauro Carlino, former secretary to Cardinal Becciu when he was Deputy Secretary of State; Enrico Crasso, a financial broker who has managed investments for the Secretary of State for decades; Tommaso Di Ruzza, former director of the AIF; Cecilia Marogna, a woman who has received considerable sums from the State Secretariat for Intelligence Services; Raffaele Mincione, a financial broker who allegedly subscribed to the Secretary of State for large shares of a fund that owned the London property; Nicola Squillace, a lawyer involved in these negotiations; Fabrizio Tirabassi, note taker in the administrative office of the Secretariat of State; and Gianluigi Torzi, a broker hired to help the Holy See out of the fund held by Mincione.
Charges were also brought against four companies, three managed by Crasso and one by Marogna. But other senior officials who had overall responsibility for overseeing the transaction, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Cardinal Becciu’s successor Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, were not called to the meeting. trial, no more than Mgr. Alberto Perlasca, head of the administrative office of the Secretariat of State, who signed a “shared purchase contract” for the property on behalf of the Holy See.
Pope Francis, as supreme judge of the Vatican City State and of the Universal Church, would not be called to testify, although he remains free to choose to do so.
Cardinal Parolin was demand by the French Catholic daily The cross July 3 if, as Secretary of State, he would be invited to testify at trial.
“I don’t know if I will be, but if asked, yes, I’m good to go. If they say: “You are responsible for everything that happened”, I will undoubtedly have things to say, answers to give. If they think I’m not responsible, they certainly won’t call me to testify.
Cardinal Parolin, whom Pope Francis named his No.2 in 2013, said of the involvement of the Secretary of State that “we see ourselves as victims” of the scandal. But he declined to comment on the merits of the case against the defendants, having yet to have time to read the documents. He also said he hoped the trial would be “brief” and that all evidence would be provided.
For his part, Mgr. Perlasca has always maintained that he was acting on the orders of his superiors.
London’s real estate financial scandal dates back to 2014, when the Holy See invested in a luxury apartment project in a prestigious area of the UK capital using off-balance sheet funds taken from controlled Swiss bank accounts. of the Secretary of State.
The investment ended up inflicting huge losses on the Vatican, which were then compounded by further mismanagement, including the hiring of Italian financier Gianluigi Torzi, who was asked by the Holy See to act as agent of binding for the final purchase of the London property in a failed attempt. to further minimize losses.
The overall total loss is estimated at around 200 million euros and possibly much more, according to the Italian media reports, and included “resources intended for the personal acts of charity of the Holy Father”, a Vatican document summary of the indictment read.
The summary, published Saturday by Vatican News, indicates that neither Mgr. Perlasca, “neither his superiors” Archbishop Peña Parra and Cardinal Parolin, “had not been effectively informed to be fully aware of the legal effects” of the purchase contract that Torzi had drawn up for the Vatican.
He added that Archbishop Peña Parra’s signature on this agreement was only obtained “after the fact and without superiors being informed” of a key element of the agreement: that Torzi would have a right to vote. total on the property.
“To gain control of the property and get Torzi out of the picture, 15 million euros were extorted from the Secretary of State through payments to the broker for irregular reasons, thanks to the internal complicity of the suspects whose indictments have been requested, ”he added. Continuation of the Vatican summary.
One of the accused, Mgr. Carlino, announced through his lawyer Salvino Mondello last November that his client had negotiated the reduction of Torzi’s fees from 20 million euros to 15 million. Mondello also alleged that the hiring and payment of Torzi had been made “with the approval of the Holy Father”.
Cardinal Parolin has already pointed out that he works closely with Cardinal Becciu in financial affairs, especially take responsability in 2019 for an irregular loan to buy a bankrupt Roman Catholic hospital. He also tried to limit further financial losses over the London deal, according to a letter leaked in January.
Probably a long trial
The July 27 hearing is just the opening session of a trial that could last several months and is expected to be adjourned during the summer recess in August before resuming in the fall. Some observers say it is therefore entirely possible that these officials and others will be summoned to subsequent hearings.
“As a result of the evidence produced by the trial, other actors inside or outside the Holy See could be charged in the future,” said Matthew O’Brien, a Catholic investment manager based in Philadelphia who advocates for financial reform in the Church. He believes that Mgr. Perlasca may have avoided a court summons because he cooperated with prosecutors to provide evidence against the 10 people subpoenaed.
A Vatican source close to the judicial process confirmed in the Register that Mgr. Perlasca, an Italian diplomat who worked at the apostolic nunciature in Buenos Aires from 2006 to 2008 when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was archbishop, helped investigators, but “there is no discussion at the moment” as to whether he, Cardinal Parolin or Archbishop Peña Para will be summoned.
Observers say the upcoming hearings will benefit the universal Church.
The trial is “great news for Catholics around the world,” said Opus Father Dei Robert Gahl, founding board member of the Global Institute for Church Management. “It has long been suspected that the Vatican is infected with corrupt, greedy and power-hungry clerics, even though they are only a minority of those who work altruistically in the Vatican. “
Father Gahl, associate professor of ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, told the Register that the trial was the result of Pope Francis’ financial and curial reforms.
The Holy Father, he said, “reformed the law, both canonical and civil, to enshrine the principles of transparency and accountability in the governance of the Church while strengthening the capacity of prosecutors to investigate. on crimes, to bring to justice, to verify the verdict and to impose a just sentence.
O’Brien also believes “a lot of good could come out of the trial,” but he said a lot will depend on the ability of Vatican prosecutors – in this case, the Office of the Promoter of Justice – to operate “under cover. of the interference of the Curia “. and whether the state authorities mentioned in the indictment will cooperate. These include Italy, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates and United States.
“Vatican prosecutors do not have enough staff or experience to handle a complex financial fraud like this on their own,” O’Brien said, adding that a recent Italian court ruling against Torzi, combined with the ‘comprehensiveness of recent Vatican indictments,’ suggest that Italian authorities are providing at least key support. ”
Double judicial standard?
O’Brien told the Register he would also like to see a rectification of the judicial double standards in which one standard of justice applies to higher prelates but another to priests and lower-ranking laity.
A source with detailed knowledge and experience of Vatican finances told the Register that a “caste system” operated in the Curia, where the prelates would protect each other while the lower ranks were to be held accountable. O’Brien therefore believes that the Pope has taken an “important step” in reforming such a culture by revoking Cardinal Becciu’s privileges as cardinal in 2019 and thus allowing him to stand trial.
Observers hope the trial could be a further step towards redressing such injustices.
Father Gahl said: “I hope that the reform of the Pope, and in particular this trial, will bring truth and do justice, so that the faithful can be sure that their generous donations to Peter’s Pence will truly go to the charities of the Pope. and that the Vatican renews itself by effectively serving the desire for evangelization of the whole Church.