Cardinal Angelo Becciu insisted again Tuesday that he was innocent of all charges as the Vatican’s long-running finance trial continued to draw to a close.
“I am innocent and I will not tire of repeating it,” he said in a July 25 statement. “I am innocent not only because I never stole a penny nor did I enrich myself or my family members. The investigators’ thorough checks on our bank accounts have proven it.”
The cardinal, who is accused of fraud, embezzlement, abuse of office, conspiracy, and attempting to pervert the course of justice, issued the statement as Alessandro Diddi, the Vatican City State’s promoter of justice, renewed his summing up the case against the trial’s 10 defendants.
The court case revolves around a luxury property deal in London, England, which the prosecutor said had contributed to Vatican losses of up to 189 million euros (around $212 million).
After two weeks of hearings opened July 18, Diddi presented the Italian cardinal as the driving force behind the deal.
During the trial’s 66th hearing July 25, the prosecutor accused Becciu of displaying “irreverent attitudes” toward the judicial authorities, interfering with the investigations, and failing to cooperate with the office of the promoter of justice.
He claimed that the cardinal had created “masterpieces of falsification and mystification of reality.”
Becciu, who served as the second-highest-ranking official at the Vatican’s powerful Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018, said he was “saddened” by Diddi’s account of his role.
“My documented and timely reconstruction of the facts in the courtroom showed that I have always worked for the good of the Church and have spent my life for it,” Becciu said, referring to his testimony delivered last year in the trial that began in July 2021.
In addition to defending his actions over the London property deal, the cardinal insisted that payments he authorized to the self-described “security consultant” Cecilia Marogna were intended to secure the release of Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti, a Colombian religious sister kidnapped by Islamist militants in Mali in 2017.
The Vatican has indicted Marogna on embezzlement charges, which she denies. At the July 25 hearing, Diddi asserted that funds given to the “self-styled geopolitical analyst” were not used for “an institutional purpose” or “a humanitarian mission,” but squandered on cosmetics, restaurants, and spa vacations.
Becciu, who was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ozeri in Sardinia in 1972, also rejected allegations that he used his office to channel money to members of his family, including 250,000 euros (around $276,000) sent to bank accounts controlled by his brother, Antonio Becciu, who runs the Spes Cooperative, a Catholic charity on the Italian island.
The 75-year-old cardinal said: “These are some of the reasons for which I maintain firm confidence in the impartial judgment of the [Vatican City State] Tribunal, whether it is the events related to the London building or the humanitarian reasons that prompted the execution of all possible attempts to save the life of a missionary nun or, again, the legitimate support for the charitable initiatives of the Diocese of Ozieri that has the sole fault of being linked to my origins and a cooperative that works with Caritas presided over by a person who has the sole fault of being one of my brothers.”
He went on: “What hurt me the most was that the promoter of justice did not bring a shred of evidence to support his accusations, but described me in an absolutely distorting way, ending up scarring my figure as a man and a priest.”
“I reject with indignation and disgust the insinuating and offensive sentences about my priestly life and as a servant of the pope. A man who prides himself on working on behalf of the pope cannot fall into such baseness.”
Becciu said that the trial was a “painful page” not only for him and his family, but also for the Church.
“I really don’t know how it was possible to attempt to peg the initial charges of guilt after all that the trial has shown,” he commented, adding: “I hope all this suffering will end soon.”
Becciu’s lawyers also issued a statement July 25 insisting on their client’s innocence of all charges.
“Even today we have witnessed a succession of suggestions that have little to do with the search for truth and the balance of evidence, theorems far from the reality of the facts and what has been demonstrated,” they said.
“We are certain that the tones, ways, and language of this Promoter of Justice are not shared in the Holy See, that the repugnant expressions used by Prof. Diddi cannot find approval from Pope Francis and [the Vatican Secretary of State] Cardinal Pietro Parolin.”
They added: “The cardinal is innocent, we have demonstrated it and it is not by raising the pitch and using offensive epithets that reality can be changed. We will not be frightened by the yells and vehemence expressed in the courtroom and we will continue to proclaim his innocence, now made clear to all by the court hearings.”
The lawyers suggested the prosecution did not appear to care that “through Ms. Marogna, the cardinal took action to free a kidnapped nun, and thus to save a human life” — a characterization of his dealings with the self-described private spy which the prosecution has repeatedly challenged.
“It was an operation that Cardinal Becciu conducted confidentially at the direct mandate of the pope, so much so that the Holy Father authorized Cardinal Becciu’s successor, [Archbishop Edgar] Peña Parra, to continue with the payments as part of the operation to free the nun.”
Sr. Narváez Argoti was released on Oct. 9, 2021, after almost five years in captivity. Although Becciu and Marogna have claimed credit for securing her release, that has been disputed by Italian intelligence agencies.
Marogna has not presented herself in court and successfully fought against extradition to the Vatican in 2021. She claims she worked for the Secretariat of State on sensitive diplomatic cases, like those of kidnapped clergy and religious, while also boasting of work as a kind of personal spy for Becciu, gathering dossiers of information on the private moral failings of other senior Church officials.
When confronted by Vatican law enforcement about payments to Margona, the court has previously heard, Becciu offered to repay hundreds of thousands of euros in Church funds used out of his own pocket.
The trial remains ongoing.
Editor’s note: This report was updated July 26 with quotations from the Vatican prosecutor’s summing up of the case against Cardinal Becciu at a July 25 hearing.