Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the first high-ranking Vatican official to appear before the Vatican criminal court, defended himself at length Thursday during his trial for financial fraud, revealing in passing a secret agreement approved by the pope to release the nun. Gloria Cecilia Narvaez.
For two and a half hours, the 73-year-old Italian cardinal dismissed the “completely unfounded accusations” brought against him before the criminal court of the smallest state in the world. In total, a dozen people have been tried there since July 2021 for fraud, embezzlement, abuse of power, money laundering, corruption and extortion.
At the heart of this sulphurous multi-pronged trial is the costly purchase of a prestigious building in London as part of the investment activities of the Holy See, whose real estate heritage is considerable.
Archbishop Becciu, ex-close adviser to Pope Francis, who removed him from his post and deprived him of his cardinal privileges in September 2020, denied any imprudent use of the Denarius of Saint Peter, the great annual collection of donations dedicated to the charitable actions of the pope.
"It was not the funds of the Denarius that were used, but those of the Secretariat of State", he assured in reference to the central government of the Holy See, claiming to have "followed the practices" of his predecessors and emphasizing the “trust” placed in its employees.
At the end of January, the Vatican confirmed that it had sold the 17.000 m² building located at 60 Sloane Square, in the very chic district of Chelsea, whose acquisition at an overvalued price and encumbered with a hidden mortgage has heavily tarnished its reputation.
In addition, Bishop Becciu affirmed that the pope had given his agreement for a transaction of one million euros to release a Colombian nun, Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, detained for more than four years in Mali by a group linked to Al -Qaeda before being released in 2021.
If he did not specify whether a ransom had finally been paid, this revelation highlighted the use of the services of a British security company, thanks in particular to the intermediary of the Italian Cecilia Marogna.
The latter – also accused in this trial – had already claimed to have been employed by the cardinal for intelligence activities aimed at freeing kidnapped religious, and received 575.000 euros from the Secretariat of State on a Slovenian account.
Bishop Becciu strongly denied having had a relationship with Ms. Marogna, dubbed "the cardinal's lady" by the Italian press.
The editorial staff (with AFP)
Image credit: Creative Commons / Wikimedia
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