By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Cardinal Angelo Becciu, currently facing charges of embezzlement and abuse of office, said Pope Francis invited him to attend the Aug. 27 consistory.
According to an Aug. 22 report by the Italian newspaper L’Unione Sarda, Cardinal Becciu told participants at a private Mass in the Sardinian beachfront town of Golfo Aranci that he received a telephone call from the pope who asked him “to attend a meeting with all the cardinals to be held in Rome in the next few days.”
The Italian cardinal also claimed that during the Aug. 20 phone call, the pope told “me that I will be reinstated in my duties as a cardinal,” L’Unione Sarda reported.
Cardinal Becciu relinquished the rights associated with being a cardinal, which includes serving as a papal adviser, a member of Vatican dicasteries and councils, and as an elector of a new pope, after he was forced to resign in 2020.
The Vatican did not confirm the cardinal’s claim that his rights and privileges would be reinstated; Cardinal Becciu did not respond to a request for a comment by Catholic News Service.
However, when asked by the Italian news agency ANSA about his invitation to attend the consistory, the cardinal said he was “very moved by the pope’s gesture.”
“I thank him from the bottom of my heart and reconfirm my full communion with him,” Cardinal Becciu told ANSA Aug. 22.
At a news conference with journalists the day after his 2020 resignation, Cardinal Becciu said he was accused of embezzling an estimated 100,000 euros of Vatican funds and redirecting them to Spes, a Caritas organization run by his brother, Tonino Becciu, in his home Diocese of Ozieri. When he resigned, the cardinal was head of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes — now a dicastery — but the charges stemmed from 2017, when he was an official at the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Cardinal Becciu strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Several months after his resignation, Cardinal Becciu filed a 10 million euro lawsuit against Italian magazine L’Espresso, claiming its “slanderous and defamatory” reporting ruined his reputation and influenced Pope Francis’ decision to remove him, resulting in him losing his chance at becoming pope.
“On the basis of his prestigious curriculum and in virtue of the aforementioned past, (Cardinal Becciu) could well have been among the ‘papabili,'” or the front-runners for the papal election, the 74-page lawsuit claimed, according to a November 2020 report by Italian news agency Adnkronos.
The lawsuit stated that the Italian cardinal’s exclusion from the next conclave “could challenge the validity of the election of the Holy Father, with all the doctrinal implications that could occur as a result, as well as the division within the church that could be generated.”
It also stated that the chaos potentially created by his exclusion would result in “the convening of a second conclave” that would cause “serious financial problems” since “it is a very costly procedure for the Holy See.”
The Italian cardinal, along with nine individuals and entities, was indicted in 2021 on a slew of charges ranging from embezzlement to money laundering and abuse of office. The cardinal’s name also turned up in a questionable property development deal in London’s Chelsea district that is at the heart of the Vatican trial.
Taking the stand at the trial March 17, Cardinal Becciu testified that the money sent to both Spes and his home diocese of Ozieri were for specific projects that provided work for the poor and unemployed, including the building of a bakery as well as a multipurpose center that would house Caritas offices and assist the elderly and refugees.
Saying he was innocent of the charges against him, the cardinal said he owed the truth to his conscience, his family, the church and “above all to the Holy Father,” who, he claimed, had “recently declared his belief in my innocence.”