Indicted Cardinal: Pope 'Wanted Me to Be on Trial'

Charges include embezzlement and abuse of office
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 27, 2021 5:02 PM CDT
Cardinal on Trial Says He's Still Loyal to Pope
Judge Giuseppe Pignatone, center, presides over a trial at the Vatican on Tuesday.   (Vatican Media via AP)

A fraud and embezzlement trial involving charges of mismanagement of the Holy See's investments began Tuesday in Vatican City, with a once-powerful cardinal among the 10 defendants saying he remains obedient to Pope Francis, who stripped his privileges to bring him before the tribunal. "He wanted me to be on trial, and I'm coming to the trial. I'm serene. I feel tranquil in my conscience," Cardinal Angelo Becciu, one of two defendants who attended the largely procedural, seven-hour session, told reporters. Becciu, a former longtime Vatican diplomat, is charged with embezzlement, abusing his office, and pressing a monsignor to recant information he gave to prosecutors about a disastrous real estate deal involving properties in London. The 73-year-old prelate, who was elevated to cardinal by Francis in 2018 but later dismissed by the pope from his later post in charge of the church's saint-making office, has denied any wrongdoing, the AP reports.

During the first day of the trial, defense lawyers lamented they hadn't had time to digest about 28,000 pages of documents released by Vatican prosecutors. They noted that much of the evidence from the July 3 indictments hadn't been made available, apparently due to logistical problems. Chief Judge Giuseppe Pignatone agreed, setting the next hearing for Oct. 5. A former Rome chief prosecutor, Pignatone spent years investigating the Mafia and criminal financial activity. The Vatican has a tiny courtroom, but to accommodate all the defendants, lawyers, and journalists for the largest trial in the Holy See's modern history, the trial was moved to a hall that is part of the Vatican Museums. The makeshift courtroom is adorned only with a crucifix, and, just behind where the three-member prosecution team sits, a photo of Francis in his white robes. Because the pope removed his rights as a cardinal, So Becciu wore a plain black clergyman's suit and a large, pectoral cross instead of the usual, prestigious red garb. All the defendants face prison if convicted.

(More Vatican stories.)

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