Vatican City, May 5, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).
Cardinal Angelo Becciu was questioned about investments during a hearing in the Vatican’s ongoing finance trial on Thursday, while his former deputy, Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, is seeking damages as a civil plaintiff.
From 2011 to 2018, Becciu was the second-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, a powerful curial department that is one of four civil plaintiffs in a trial to prosecute Vatican officials and collaborators in connection with the controversial deal to purchase a London investment property.
A lawyer for Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, a suspect turned key witness for the prosecution, said at the start of the May 5 hearing that the former head of administration at the Secretariat should also be awarded damages as a civil plaintiff.
In a 50-page declaration on May 5, Becciu argued his innocence against charges of embezzlement, abuse of office, and witness tampering.
In his personal statement, which he took almost two and half hours to read, the 73-year-old cardinal responded to accusations against him and explained details of his position as Sostituto (Substitute) of the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018, including that it relied on him having total faith in his collaborators, while at the same time total autonomy.
The declaration was followed by several hours of intense and heated questioning, during which Becciu responded to requests from a prosecutor for more information about certain investments made by the Secretariat of State.
Responding to questions, the cardinal denied that the Secretariat used funds from Peter’s Pence, the pope’s charitable fund, for the investment in the London building.
Becciu was also asked whether Pope Francis was informed of the Secretariat of State’s investments, to which the cardinal said he would submit occasional reports to the pope, but there were no specific authorizations.
Becciu added that he is “old school — In odiosis non feci nomen pontifici,” explaining the Latin phrase as meaning that “one tries to preserve the moral authority of the pope without involving him in earthly things. That does not mean not informing him, but not giving him the responsibility.”
In September 2020, Becciu resigned as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights and privileges of the College of Cardinals. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
Throughout Becciu’s questioning, which will continue at a May 18 hearing, court president Giuseppe Pignatone did not allow a number of the prosecutor’s questions. At one point, the judge also called for a five-minute break to allow the attorney and defendant to cool down.
Becciu was questioned in the May 5 hearing after Pope Francis dispensed the cardinal from the obligation of the pontifical secret, a rule of confidentiality protecting sensitive information regarding the governance of the universal Church.
The cardinal had previously invoked the pontifical secret to argue that he could not speak about his dealings with Cecilia Marogna, a self-described “security consultant” accused of misappropriating Secretariat of State funds.
The 40-year-old from Sardinia is also a defendant in the trial. She has been charged with embezzlement for allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of euros from the Secretariat in connection with Becciu, and then reportedly spending the money earmarked for charity on luxury goods and vacations — which she denies.