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VATICAN CITY — Contained in the excessive partitions of the Holy See, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu — former head of the workplace of “miracles” that minted saints — was thought of papabile, a attainable subsequent pope.

Then his profession collided with church prosecutors, who charged the 75-year-old Italian and 9 different officers with corruption, establishing the Vatican’s trial of the century.

On Saturday, Becciu — the primary cardinal tried by the Vatican’s little-known legal courtroom — was discovered responsible of a number of counts of embezzlement after a trial of marred by allegations of witness tampering and papal interference. Becciu was sentenced to 5 years and 6 months in a verdict learn out in a transformed quarter of the museum that homes the Sistine Chapel.

Becciu’s attorneys mentioned the choice could be appealed, nevertheless it put the cardinal nearer to considered one of Vatican Metropolis’s handful of jail cells — a outcome that quantities to each an indication of accountability and embarrassment for an establishment that has lengthy struggled to root out corruption. He was additionally barred from holding any Vatican workplace.

The case, a marathon of 86 courtroom hearings that blended a hodgepodge of assorted expenses, additional uncovered the murky world of Vatican funds, in addition to the pope’s campaign for accountability, even, critics argued, at the price of the rule of legislation. The star defendant was all the time Becciu, as soon as a papal assured who renounced his senior publish after a shock 2020 assembly by which Pope Francis dramatically confronted him with the accusations towards him. Francis stripped him of his privileges as cardinal earlier than any discovering of guilt. Later, a few of these rights have been unofficially reinstated.

The Vatican, in the meantime, emerges worse for put on, with new questions raised concerning the effectiveness and equity of its authorized system. Portrayed as an train in transparency beneath a crusading pope, the case nonetheless appeared to backfire in key methods, opening an undesirable window into the intrigue, infighting and ineptitude at coronary heart of the world’s smallest sovereign state.

“The pope ended up kicking a hornets’ nest,” mentioned Giovanni Maria Vian, a former editor of the Vatican newspaper.

Vatican indicts 10 folks, together with a once-powerful cardinal, over ‘reckless’ London funding scandal

A foul Vatican funding in a tony London property that finally led to huge losses prompted the sweeping investigation, together with unprecedented raids of Vatican workplaces. As prosecutors dug, they claimed Becciu had wrongly funneled 125,000 euros to a Sardinian charity run by his brother and one other 575,000 euros to Cecilia Marogna, a Sardinian girl with a humanitarian group in Slovenia who, Becciu mentioned, was supposed to assist free a kidnapped nun. Different senior Vatican officers who signed off on the London deal have been by no means indicted, and the pope had been beforehand apprised of the transaction.

Earlier than the trial started, Francis appeared to make use of his powers in ways in which supporters noticed as a quest for transparency, however critics referred to as overreach by a person who serves as Vatican Metropolis’s absolute monarch. He authorised a sequence of secret edicts aimed toward empowering prosecutors, together with one permitting investigators to interact in wiretapping.

As prosecutors sought to show their case, they have been tormented by setbacks, together with questions concerning the credibility of their star witness and revelations that he had been coached by a Becciu enemy. .

The trial got here as a pope elected with a mandate to reform the Roman Curia — the opaque paperwork that runs Vatican Metropolis — was seen as having made strides, if nonetheless not sufficient, to enhance monetary transparency. The Vatican financial institution — lengthy tainted by secretive accounting and cash laundering scandals — underwent a cleanup throughout the previous decade, a course of begun beneath Pope Benedict XVI and accelerated beneath Francis.

Francis has additionally banned items to Vatican staff value greater than $50, and compelled Holy See officers to signal a pledge that they don’t have any property in tax havens.

The Becciu case “says loads concerning the pope’s will — theatrical and spectacular — to wash home,” mentioned Emiliano Fittipaldi, an Italian journalist and famous Vatican watcher. He added, “Becciu turned a form of image, or a scapegoat, even when he didn’t commit any crime, of a system that needed to be handled ultimately.”

Pope Francis accepts resignation of cardinal linked to a monetary scandal

Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi sought jail sentences between 4 and 13 years for the defendants, in addition to practically 500 million euros in restitution. Becciu maintained his “absolute innocence” and contended he didn’t steal “a single euro.” In the course of the case, Becciu appeared to counsel the pope had turned on him whilst he was pressured to disclaim stories that he funded a global smear marketing campaign towards considered one of Francis’s fiercest conservative critics.

Some observers questioned why the Vatican sought to prosecute the sophisticated case that ran from Britain to Slovenia to Italy within the first place, moderately than flip it over to raised outfitted Italian authorities.

After Francis turned pope, Becciu, who previously served as de facto chief of workers on the Vatican’s secretariat of state — its diplomatic arm — would ceaselessly journey with him and was seen as one of many few males throughout the Holy See who might freely knock on the pope’s door.

In Vatican intrigue, ousted cardinal breaks silence to disclaim embezzlement

Throughout his time in that publish, the secretariat invested in a luxurious constructing on London’s trendy Sloane Avenue by an Italian financier, Raffaele Mincione. The property had as soon as served as warehouses for the Harrods division retailer. With upgrades, the Vatican was imagined to make a mint.

As an alternative, it turned out that the property had been radically overvalued. It was offered final yr at a $175-million loss. However earlier than that, makes an attempt by the secretariat to refinance a mortgage by the Vatican financial institution set off alarm bells that received again to the pope and triggered the broader investigation.

On the stand, Becciu decried his transformation from pious cleric to “monster.” Behind the scenes, he got down to show his innocence. In 2021, earlier than the trial began, he wrote a sequence of letters to Francis, urging the pope to verify he had data of, and even supported, the London deal.

Becciu moreover requested Francis to confess he had prior data of the settlement with Marogna, the girl with the charity in Slovenia who was paid an exorbitant payment for unclear companies. Becciu has mentioned he believed the cash was going to help the liberation of Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez, a Colombian nun kidnapped in 2017 in Mali.

In a subsequent name to Francis, made the day after the pope was launched from a Rome hospital for colon surgical procedure, Becciu secretly recorded the pontiff, who appeared sympathetic to his plight. However a follow-up letter to the pope requesting his written assist towards the costs resulted in a frosty letter in legalese, by which Francis expressed his “shock” at Becciu’s request and mentioned he couldn’t assist him.

“I remorse to tell you that I can not comply along with your request,” the pope wrote.

The prosecutors’ case partly rested on the testimony of Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, the Vatican official who had signed contracts associated to a London property in 2018. Initially a goal of the investigation, he altered his testimony and have become a witness for the prosecution towards Becciu. Former Vatican diplomat Francesca Chaouqui — jailed for 10 months in connection to the Vatileaks scandal which was seen as serving to to immediate Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation — later testified that she had sought to affect Perlasca after blaming Becciu for taking part in a job in her downfall.

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