At Vatican financial trial, Cardinal Becciu says he is not afraid of the truth
VATICAN CITY (RNS) — With his “head held high”, Cardinal Angelo Becciu testified before the Vatican blockbuster financial lawsuit Thursday, March 17, declaring his innocence against charges of embezzlement, abuse of power and tampering with witnesses with a “good conscience”.
“I want to state here immediately with the strength and transparency of my conscience: I never wanted a euro, or even a penny, that I succeeded or of which I had knowledge, to be subtracted , misused or intended for purposes that were not exclusively institutional,” Becciu said in his opening speech before being questioned by Vatican judges.
Becciu served as deputy, the equivalent of the Vatican’s chief of staff, from 2011 to 2018 and later headed his department overseeing the making of saints. Pope Francis stripped him of his cardinal rights – but not his title – in February 2020 after reports linked Becciu to a controversial London luxury property investment made with a Vatican fund earmarked for a known charity as Peter’s Pence.
Ten people, including Becciu, have been charged by Vatican prosecutors with defrauding the Catholic Church of more than $200 million. The former deputy is also accused of mishandling Catholic and Vatican funds allegedly paid to an intelligence consultant named Cecilia Marogna and members of Becciu’s family.
“I admit that it is not easy to speak and defend my honor here,” Becciu told the judges, adding that he had been the victim of an “unprecedented media massacre” which presented him as “ the worst of cardinals”. The whole world.
“I have been described as a corrupt man. Greedy. Disloyal to the Pope. Only concerned about the welfare of my family members,” Becciu said.
According to Vatican prosecutors, the cardinal sent more than $276,000 from the Vatican to a personal account belonging to his brother Antonino Becciu, who heads Spes, a charity in the Diocese of Ozieri in Sardinia.
The first payment, of more than $100,000, was reportedly issued by the cardinal from funds from the Italian episcopal conference to his brother’s bank account in 2013. Asked about the transaction by judges, Becciu said he had sent the money on loan because he “was delighted” to contribute to a Spes project which offered work to disadvantaged people. He said that although half of the loan was repaid, he forgave the rest.
“In front of my brother’s charity work, I, as a priest, blush,” Becciu said.
Two other payments were made to Antonino’s bank account, one from a Vatican State Secretariat account in 2015, for over $27,000, and another in 2018, over $100,000. Becciu explained that it was common practice in the Vatican to make financial contributions to priests or lay people who needed help for a good cause.
“There was always trust at the start,” Becciu said, adding that the 2015 payment was made to support the local bishop’s initiatives. The second installment, the cardinal said, was never spent. He denied knowing that the bank account belonged to his brother, adding that Spes acted as an operational arm of the Catholic charity Caritas.
Spes loaned Becciu’s niece Maria Luisa Zambrano more than $143,000 between 2014 and 2015, according to Vatican prosecutors, but Becciu denied knowing about the loan and stressed that he and Zambrano were not directly related but that they “have been friends for a long time”. .”