An abrupt resignation shook Rome Thursday, with a high-ranking Vatican official who was involved in a controversial luxury real estate deal stepping down. "The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights connected to the Cardinalate, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu," reads the curt statement offered by the Holy See. It offered no elaboration on the sudden and rare move by Becciu, who was head of the Vatican's saint-making office and a close aide to Pope Francis, per the BBC. The New York Times notes that because the terms "eminence" and "cardinal" appeared in the statement, it appears Becciu will hold onto his title, even though it also suggests he won't get a vote in the next conclave, when the next pope is picked.
The 72-year-old Becciu, meanwhile, is speaking out, saying he was pushed out of his role due to allegations that he gave church money to businesses and cooperatives run by his brothers. "I didn't steal even one euro," Becciu told Italian media. "If they send me to trial, I will defend myself." He has also been tied to a financial scandal involving the Vatican's purchase of a London property that was reportedly bought in part with donations from Catholics for charity. The AP notes that Becciu is not himself currently under investigation by the Vatican prosecutor, though he was in charge of administrative duties when the real estate deal, which lost millions of the Vatican's euros to middlemen fees, went through. The meeting between Becciu and Pope Francis Thursday was said to be a tense one, in which Becciu says he pleaded with the pope: "Why are you doing this to me, in front of the whole world?" (Read more Vatican stories.)