By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, lambasted a recent financial probe that opened in his native Sardinia.
According to a Feb. 15 report by Italian news agency ANSA, Italian finance authorities conducted several raids on individuals connected with Cardinal Becciu. The raids took place in Rome and in the Sardinian towns of Ozieri, Bono and Pattada, the cardinal’s birthplace.
Speaking to journalists Feb. 18 before the start of the seventh session of the ongoing Vatican trial against him and nine other individuals, Cardinal Becciu said the probe was a “blitz that distressed me so much.”
The cardinal said prosecutors and finance authorities “were very kind” to him and made it clear that it was “a necessary action after (receiving) a report that came from the Vatican prosecutor’s office.”
Cardinal Becciu once again denied accusations that he embezzled an estimated 100,000 euros ($116,361) of Vatican funds and redirected them to Spes, a Caritas organization run by his brother, Tonino Becciu, in his home Diocese of Ozieri.
He currently faces charges stemming from a Vatican investigation into how the Secretariat of State incurred millions of dollars in debt in a botched property development project in London’s posh Chelsea district.
Following the raids, a lawyer representing Bishop Corrado Melis of Ozieri said in a statement that the financial probe was “incomprehensible” and that a prior investigation in July turned up no evidence of financial malfeasance.
“We reaffirm for the umpteenth and — hopefully — last time, that the Diocese of Ozieri has always operated respectfully with regard to religious purposes and solidarity on an economic level, committing its resources to initiatives that are never detached from proven situations of hardship.”
Cardinal Becciu told journalists that the continuing investigations are “a humiliation for the diocese and for the bishop.”
“I want to express all my solidarity with the bishop who has suffered these humiliations,” he said.
At the trial’s seventh session, lawyers for several defendants once again called on Giuseppe Pignatone, president of the Vatican City State criminal court, to dismiss the charges against their respective clients.
Several of the lawyers argued that prosecutors have avoided sharing all the evidence collected during their investigation.
Among those addressing the court was Salvino Mondello, lawyer for Msgr. Mauro Carlino, the former secretary of then-Archbishop Becciu when he served as “sostituto,” the No. 3 position in the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Msgr. Carlino faces charges of extortion and abuse of office in relation to the London property development deal.
Mondello argued that the prosecutor was ignoring information in its possession that could potentially prove Msgr. Carlino was in Rome and not in London at a key moment of the transaction.
He also said the prosecution’s picking and choosing of evidence was an act of “jurisprudential tourism.”
The court will continue to hear arguments Feb. 28 and is expected to rule on defense lawyers’ objections March 1.