A cardinal who was fired by Pope Francis Thursday caused a “huge black hole” in Church finances by funnelling funds to offshore investments and family businesses, according to a media report.
– Favours for bankers and brothers
According to Italian publication L’Espresso, Angelo Becciu – who was dismissed by the pontiff yesterday from his post as Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and from his rights as a cardinal – channelled money away from the Pope’s charitable ‘Peter’s Pence’ collection and from the Italian Episcopcal Conference (CEI).
During his time as ‘substitute’ in the Vatican Secretariat of State (2011-2018), Becciu, 72, reportedly directed Vatican money to offshore investments in Luxembourg, Malta and Asia via ex-Credit Suisse banker Enrico Crasso.
The prelate also allegedly obtained non-refundable loans worth 700,000 euros from the CEI and from the Peter’s Pence donations for the Spes food charity cooperative run by local Caritas in the Italian town of Ozieri, whose owner was his brother, Tonino.
Those loans to his brother were not the first time Becciu directed Church money to family businesses, according to L’Espresso.
During his time as nuncio in Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe (2001-2009) and in Cuba (2009-2011), Becciu also reportedly awarded another brother – Francesco, a carpenter – with contracts worth hundreds of thousands of euros to refurbish local churches.
Becciu’s long history of alleged financial mismanagement began to unravel when last year authorities began to investigate the 2014 Secretariat of State purchase of a luxury London property.
Money for that purchase allegedly came from Peter’s Pence donations, from credit extended from a Swiss bank, BSI, accused of lax anti-money laundering safeguards and from loans from the Institute for the Works of Religions (IOR) or so-called Vatican bank.
The 150 million euros that Becciu requested from the IOR triggered a Vatican investigation that in turn let to raids in Secretariat of State offices and the dismissals of Secretariat of State personnel.
– “I am innocent and I will prove it”
The Holy See Press Office announced Becciu’s firing Thursday evening at 8pm, in a terse communiqué in which it revealed that “the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and related rights of the cardinalate, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu”, and thereby suggested that although Becciu remains a cardinal, he will not vote in any future conclaves.
According to Italian paper Il Messaggero, the Pope demanded Becciu resign when he met with the ex-Prefect of the Vatican saints’ department in a routine audience Thursday in which Becciu was to inform him of novelties at the Congregation in terms of newly-recognised miracles and names of newly-proposed Blesseds and Saints.
After resigning, Becciu told Il Messaggero:
“I am shocked. Troubled. A blow to me, my family, the people of my village. Out of a spirit of obedience and out of love for the Church and the Pope, I accepted his request to step aside. But I am innocent and I will prove it. I ask the Holy Father that I may have the right of defending myself”.
Becciu later followed up those first words after his shock departure with further declarations to the Domani newspaper.
“The Holy Father explained to me that I supposedly favoured my brothers and their activities with money from the Secretariat of State, but I can explain”, he said.
With respect to the allegations of securing loans for his brother Tonino’s food charity cooperative, Becciu added: “I can confirm, it’s all accounted for”. “What’s wrong with that?”, he said, insisting that the loans went not to his brother, but to local Caritas.
“I have not stolen a single euro. I don’t know if I am under investigation, but I they are going to send me to trial I will defend myself”, Becciu also stressed to Domani.