Vatican cardinal Angelo Becciu has said anti-Francis network EWTN’S Catholic News Agency (CNA) admitted to trusting “unreliable sources” in its reporting.

Driving the news

Cardinal Becciu made the claim against CNA in a December 2 letter to Vatican journalist Sandro Magister, in which the cardinal protested again about CNA reporting tying him to financial corruption in the Holy See.

In an ongoing series of stories, CNA has accused Becciu of being involved in the Vatican purchases of a corrupt Italian hospital, on the one hand, and of a luxury real estate development in London, on the other.

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With regard to the Vatican purchase of the hospital, the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), Becciu told Magister that a press release last week from the president of the Luigi Maria Monti Foundation – the legal partnership between the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception that bought the IDI in 2015 – “exonerates me completely from any involvement” in any fraud.

Becciu added that Luigi Maria Monti Foundation President Prof. Antonio Maria Leozappa “reconstructs with exact precision the story of the IDI”.

Part of that story is that the Luigi Maria Monti Foundation purchase of the IDI was funded by a 2014 loan of 50 million euros from the APSA, the Vatican central bank, in an apparent contravention of European banking regulations on commercial loans.

To cover the APSA loan, the Secretariat of State requested a $25 million grant from the US-based Papal Foundation, to which some members objected over its size and its intended purpose.

CNA accused Becciu, who from 2011 to 2018 was ‘number two’ or Substitute for General Affairs in the Secretariat of State, of having organised the loan and grant for the IDI.

But November 20 Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State since 2013, told the CNA “the operations involving IDI…are ascribable to myself”.

CNA also accused Becciu of hiding $200 million worth of loans on the Vatican books by cancelling them out against the value of a luxury apartment development complex in London’s Chelsea bought with those loans, and also of ignoring former Vatican Economy Prefect Cardinal George Pell’s warnings about those transactions.

But Parolin’s correction to CNA’s reporting on the IDI affair gave Becciu the ammunition to tweet November 24 that the CNA was “shamefully mislead[ing]” its readers with “false” articles” based on “unreliable ‘sources'”.

Why it matters

It was to that charge against CNA of ‘fake news’ to which Becciu returned in his December 2 letter to Magister.

Becciu said he had obtained an admission from CNA editor-in-chief JD Flynn that CNA had been using “unreliable sources” in his reporting.

CNA disputed that in its latest December 2 article on Becciu, and also via Flynn’s account in Twitter.

“Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the subject of some recent CNA reporting, told a journalist that I admitted to having trusted unreliable sources”, Flynn tweeted.

“His Eminence is mistaken. I have told His Eminence it’s important we tell all sides of a story. I reiterate our invitation for an interview”.

“I do not question the reliability of CNA’s sources, or the integrity of our reporting”, the CNA editor-in-chief continued.

“I have mentioned to His Eminence that the viewpoint of sources can be shaped by their relationships, which is why it is important to tell all sides of a story. We’ll continue doing just that”.

For the record

In his letter to Magister, Becciu also denied the CNA rumours about his relationship with Pell and the London property deal.

The cardinal furthermore lamented the guilt by association that has attached to him since his former secretary, Msgr. Mauro Carlino, was suspended after police raids in the Vatican October 1.

On Pell’s involvement in the London deal, Becciu said:

“The accusation that I did not take into consideration the contrary opinion of Cardinal Pell on the operation of the development of the London apartment is baseless, for the simple reason that the then-Prefect of the SPE [Secretariat for the Economy] was never consulted on the matter, since it was not within his competence to control the accounts of the Secretariat of State.

“To do that he would have needed the authorization of the pope, something that was never granted to him”.

On his links to Carlino, Becciu added:

“To say that I more than others are entered into the eye of a media storm for the fact that Msgr. Carlino was my personal secretary is a simplistic explanation and inconsistent”.

Becciu stated October 29 that “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”.

But Parolin earlier that day admitted that the London deal had been “opaque”, and said investigators would “shed light” on the purchase.

The Pope, for his part – on the plane back to Rome after his November 19-26 visit to Asia – acknowledged that the London property buy appeared to be a “scandal” in which Vatican officials “did things that appear not to be clean”.

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