Vatican City – December 17, 2023
In a landmark trial that has captured global attention, a Vatican court is set to deliver its verdict on Saturday, concluding a historic legal battle that revolves around a complex London property deal. The trial involves ten defendants, including Italian Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who is confronting allegations of fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering. The verdict, eagerly awaited, is anticipated to shape the narrative around the Catholic Church’s financial integrity.
Angelo Becciu, 75, once considered a potential future Pope and a former advisor to Pope Francis, stands as the highest-ranking clergyman in the Catholic Church facing justice within the confines of the Vatican City State. The accusations span a range of financial crimes, from fraud and embezzlement to money laundering, extortion, corruption, and abuse of office.
At the center of the trial lies the intricate 350-million-euro London property purchase, initiated in 2014 and culminating in significant financial losses for the Vatican. The proceedings, which commenced in July 2021, have not only shed light on the opaque financial dealings surrounding the Holy See but also presented a test of Pope Francis’s ongoing reforms to cleanse and revamp Vatican justice.
Pope Francis, in a noteworthy move just before the trial, granted the Vatican’s civilian courts the authority to try cardinals and bishops, a shift from the previous practice where they were judged by a court presided over by cardinals. The prosecutor, Alessandro Diddi, has sought a seven-year and three-month jail term for Becciu, with other defendants facing sentences ranging from nearly four to 13 years.
Becciu has vehemently proclaimed his innocence, dismissing the allegations as “totally unfounded” and maintaining that he never received any illicit funds. In response, the Holy See positions itself as an “offended party” and urges the court, through Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, to “punish all crimes.”
The trial has unfolded through more than 80 hearings held in a dedicated room within the Vatican Museums, marked by procedural challenges and complaints from defense lawyers regarding limited access to crucial evidence.
Cardinal Becciu, a well-traveled former Vatican diplomat, served as the number two in the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018. His abrupt resignation in September 2020 came following the revelation of an investigation against him, initially linked to a probe into a charitable donation in his native Sardinia. Subsequently, he became entangled in investigations related to the London property deal, alleged mismanagement, and the diversion of funds intended for charitable causes.
As the court prepares to deliver its verdict, the outcome is poised to have lasting implications for the Catholic Church and its ongoing efforts to address financial transparency and accountability. The final judgment is not expected before 1600 GMT, leaving the world awaiting the resolution of this historic Vatican fraud trial.