The Vatican started a trial yesterday against ten people suspected of financial crimes. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, formerly chief of staff at the Vatican Secretariat of State, is the highest-ranking person in the Vatican on trial. The allegations concern offenses such as fraud, embezzlement, abuse of office, money laundering, and corruption. Today is the start of the second trial day.
Last year, Pope Francis accepted Becciu’s resignation after the cardinal was linked to London’s controversial real estate deal. In 2014, the Vatican Secretariat of State had invested in a former Harrods store in the expensive Chelsea district, where luxury apartments would be built. The Vatican ultimately lost 150 million pounds on the investment.
Francis fired five Vatican officials over the London deal. An investigation was launched to determine if the bureaucrats were being scammed or if they were taking advantage of it themselves. That research has led to the current process.
Becciu’s lawyer expects “numerous pieces of evidence and witnesses to prove his innocence in relation to any allegation”. Other suspects in the trial include financial brokers, Vatican officials, and a lawyer.
Pillar of the Papacy
Francis has made putting the finances of the Catholic Church in order a pillar of his papacy. “I believe that this process marks a turning point that could lead to greater credibility for the Holy See in the economic field,” said Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, the Vatican’s economics minister. “The fact that this process is taking place means that certain internal controls are working: the allegations came from the Vatican.”