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Pope names top anti-Mafia prosecutor to Vatican court as Rome comes out swinging over coverage of raids

Pope Francis has named a top anti-Mafia prosecutor as president of the Vatican criminal court two days after police raids over alleged financial wrongdoing in the Holy See.

Driving the news

The Vatican announced Thursday that Francis had appointed Giuseppe Pignatone as President of the Vatican City State Tribunal.

As chief prosecutor in Rome until he retired in May, Pignatone was responsible for major investigations into corruption and organised crime.

The AP said he also led a probe into into the suspicious death in Egypt of an Italian student.

Before his work in the Italian capital, Pignatone led investigations into the Cosa Nostra and ‘Ndrangheta in Palermo, Sicily and Reggio Calabria.

Go deeper

Pignatone will be tasked in his post with looking into crimes that occur on Vatican territory or that otherwise involve Vatican diplomats posted around the world.

In first place on his brief are the alleged shady real estate deals and misuse of donations that led Tuesday to Vatican police raiding the Vatican Secretariat of State (Interior Ministry) and Financial Information Authority (its anti-money laundering agency) and seizing documents and computers in the process.

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The former prosecutor will also have to deal with September allegations of sex abuse and cover-ups against two priests at a Vatican minor seminary.

Why it matters

In an editorial Thursday republished on the official Vatican News website, Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano said the raids Tuesday prove that anti-corruption measures put into place by Benedict XVI and continued by Francis “really work”.

The police sweep “proves that the new laws of Vatican City State are being applied”, the editorial continued.

The raids show the “system” in the Holy See “has developed antibodies capable of reacting, and that the process of reforming the Vatican’s economic and financial structures is well underway”, the paper said.

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But L’Osservatore lamented that the case has turned into a “media pillory”.

That was after L’Espresso magazine published a Vatican police directive with the photographs and names of the five workers suspended from their jobs Wednesday over their alleged involvement in the financial wrongdoing.

“Those involved in the investigation have the right to be respected in their dignity as men and women, whether they are priests, or fathers and mothers of families”, L’Osservatore said.

The paper added that the suspects have the right to the presumption of innocence.

“Regarding the way in which this information was divulged, and those who divulged it, an investigation has been opened by the Vatican judicial system”, the paper warned.

For the record

We at Novena chose not to publish the photographs, although we, like many, have seen them.

We made that decision for much the same reasons that L’Osservatore points out.

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But it must be remembered that the directive obtained by L’Espresso is an official Vatican police document.

Who, then, leaked the directive? Was it necessary to design it in the manner of a ‘Wanted’ poster or mugshot?

We’re not the only ones asking these questions.

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Vatican suspends employees over suspicious real estate deals, alleged misuse of donations

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