A Vatican cardinal has firmly rejected any wrongdoing in a Holy See investment in luxury London property that is now the subject of a police probe.
Driving the news
“They are slanderous charges that I reject in a firm and indignant way”, Cardinal Angelo Becciu told Italian news agency ANSA.
The sweeps were ordered by Vatican prosecutors after they uncovered “serious indications of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office [and] money laundering” in the Secretariat of State’s 2014 and 2018 combined $200 million investment of ‘Peter’s Pence’ donation money in a luxury Chelsea property.
Becciu – now Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints – was ‘number two’ at the Secretariat of State between 2011 and 2018.
Five Vatican workers – including Becciu’s former secretary Monsignor Mauro Carlino – were suspended from their employment after the raids.
“I have a clear conscience and I know that I have always acted in the interest of the Holy See and never in my personal interest. Those who know me closely can attest to that”, Becciu told ANSA.
The cardinal said that press reports had portrayed him “as someone who played with and tampered with the money of the poor” in the Chelsea investment, but those reportsare incorrect.
“In the Secretariat of the State we had a fund entitled ‘money of the poor’. And it was destined for the poor”, Becciu insisted.
“If, on the other hand, for money of the poor they [the media] want to refer to Peter’s Pence, we have to clarify.
“The Pence is not only for the pope’s alms giving but also the funding for his pastoral ministry”, the cardinal said.
Faithful around the world give money to Peter’s Pence in collections on or around June 29 every year.
Some of the money is used by the Vatican for projects for the poor and needy, but some is also used for the maintenance of Vatican offices and for salaries for its employees.
But the Vatican has not reported on Peter’s Pence income since 2013, in contravention of the Pope’s stated aim of complete Vatican financial transparency.
Why it matters
Becciu explained that the “difficulties” around the Chelsea property purchase “started with the majority partner, with whom I believe issues regarding the management of the liquidity arose”.
The cardinal did not refer directly to the name contained in leaked documents, which is that of London-based Italian financier Raffaele Mincione, of the WRM Group.
But he did say that the majority partner in the Chelsea project ignored “indications reiterated on numerous occasions, also in writing” and “continued to invest in assets that the Secretariat of State could not absolutely share or approve”.
Becciu also responded to the admission of present Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin that the London property deal was “opaque”, and that the police investigation will “shed light” on the matter.
“Why should (the transactions) be opaque?”, Becciu shot back.
“It is accepted practice for the Holy See to invest in property. It has always done so: in Rome, in Paris, in Switzerland and also in London”, he explained.
“Pius XII was the first to acquire property in London”, Becciu recalled.
“The proposal for this historic and artistic building was put forward to us and when it was made and built there was nothing opaque about it.
“The investment was regular and registered according to law”.
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For the record
Parolin had also been asked for his opinion on how the Church’s money is managed, to which question he replied: “I think it is well administered”.
Vatican cardinal Peter Turkson said last week that the Holy See is presently working on unifying and cleaning up its investments and on writing an ethical investment guide.