Ousted Sistine Chapel Choir director Massimo Palombella

Vatican covers up investigation of ousted Sistine Choir head

The Pope accepted Wednesday the resignation of the director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, Monsignor Massimo Palombella. In communicating Francis’ decision, however, the Vatican omitted any reference to its own investigation of Palombella for alleged embezzlement, fraud and money laundering.

For the record

“Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Director of the prestigious Sistine Chapel Choir on reaching the end of his term, after leading the papal choir for more than 8 years”, read the article on Palombella’s resignation published on the official Vatican News website.

“In a brief note on Wednesday, the Holy See Press Office said that Pope Francis has accepted Italian Salesian Monsignor Massimo Palombella’s request to conclude his assignment.  The Holy Father took the decision in consultation with the Congregation of the Salesians of Don Bosco and the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff”, continued the Vatican News story, which, though it included information on the history and present-day administration of the Sistine Chapel Choir, made no mention of the probe into Palombella.

“The Vatican said the 51-year old priest is now available for a new ministry that will be entrusted to him by his Salesian Congregation”, continued Vatican News. “Pope Benedict XVI had appointed the Salesian priest to the post on 16 October 2010 and Pope Francis reconfirmed him in 2015”.

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The official Holy See Press Office statement read as follows:

“In recent days, Msgr. Massimo Palombella, S.D.B., concluded his service as the Maestro Director of the Sistine Chapel Choir. The Holy Father has accepted the Maestro’s request to terminate his office. The decision was taken after obtaining the concordant opinion of the Congregation of the Salesians of Don Bosco and the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. Msgr. Palombella is now available to the Salesian Congregation for the new ministry that will be entrusted to him”.

Between the lines

Both official announcements out of Rome yesterday made no mention of the fact that Choir director Palombella, along with ex-administrative director Michelangelo Nardella, have been under investigation since at least last year for allegedly funnelling Choir money into an account used for personal expenses.

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In September 2018, the Holy See Press Office, again with a statement equally as cryptic as those of Wednesday, confirmed the existence of the Vatican investigation into Palombella and Nardella, saying that “some months” before Pope Francis had autorised a probe into the “economic-administrative aspects” of the Sistine Choir’s management, an investigation which at that point was still being carried out.

Andrea Tornielli, then editor of the well-connected Vatican Insider website and now editorial director of the Vatican communications department, reported also in September 2018 that Palombella was facing a parallel Vatican probe for excessive “verbal harshness” towards the young Sistine Choir singers after complaints by their parents.

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