Cardinal Angelo Becciu retains the use of a palatial grace-and-favor apartment in Vatican City, despite being convicted of numerous financial crimes.
Becciu has been resident for years in an apartment on the top floor of the Palazzo del Santo Uffizio, the extraterritorial building adjacent to St. Peter’s square which also houses the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Becciu previously served as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, before being asked to resign by the pope in 2020, following the preliminary results of a criminal investigation into his conduct as sostituto at the Secretariat of State.
Sources close to the Vatican City state’s governorate have told The Pillar that, despite changes in Vatican policy issued by Pope Francis earlier this year, Cardinal Becciu is not paying market rates for the property but instead only a nominal monthly rent, in line with privileges customarily extended to senior curial officials.
“It is ironic, because on the one hand no cardinal could or should be able to afford market rates on such a palace,” one source close to the Palazzo del Santo Uffizio said, “but on the other, if anyone has the money, it’s probably Cardinal Becciu.”
The same source confirmed to The Pillar that the cardinal’s residence, which includes accommodation for religious sisters who act as domestic help to the cardinal, and a restaurant grade kitchen, underwent an extensive renovation in 2018-19, shortly after Becciu was named a cardinal by Pope Francis and just as the investigation into his financial crimes got underway.
In February, Pope Francis issued a rescript, a formal change in law, stating that resident clerics would now have to pay normal market rates for accommodation in Vatican-owned properties and rent of apartments in Vatican buildings.
The Pillar asked the Holy See press office to confirm if Becciu had been asked to pay market rates for his accommodation, as Pope Francis has insisted of other cardinals living in Rome who have not been convicted of numerous financial crimes.
The Vatican did not respond by time of press.
The cardinal was convicted of three counts of embezzlement by a Vatican court on Dec. 16. In addition to being sentenced to five years and six months in prison, Becciu was also permanently disqualified from holding public office and fined 8,000 euros.
The cardinal is also liable for a group asset forfeiture and seizure by the court amounting to hundreds of millions of euros.
The cardinal’s apartment, believed to be one of the largest available in Vatican City, featured several times in the course of Becciu’s trial.
Cecilia Marogna, the self-styled private spy for Becciu who was also convicted in the case, made several Facebook posts of her overnight stays in the apartment, posting pictures of herself there and describing it as “my paradise.”
Among the charges against Becciu was that he had ordered hundreds of thousands of euros of Church funds to be paid to Marogna, which were then spent on luxury goods and hotels.
During the trial, senior Vatican gendarmes told the court that they had approached Becciu after Interpol had flagged half a million euros in payments to Margona and, in a meeting in the apartment, Becciu offered to repay the funds from his personal account at the IOR, a Vatican bank, and asked them to keep the matter confidential because it would cause “serious harm” to the cardinal and his family.
Becciu also used the apartment to secretly record a phone call with Pope Francis in which he discussed matters of state secrecy and sought to pressure the pope to intervene in his trial and take responsibility for the Marogna affair.
The recording was disclosed at trial after being found in the possession of the cardinal’s niece, who was present at the time of the recording.
Becciu has called his conviction “absurd” and said he is innocent of all charges and will appeal, a process which could take some months and during which his prison sentence will be suspended.
The policy of forcing resident cardinals to pay market rates for formerly subsidized accommodation in Rome generated considerable pushback from those affected by the change.
The American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a senior jurist and judge on the Vatican’s supreme canonical court was believed to be the first cardinal to have the policy applied to him when, earlier this month, he was informed by letter that he must soon begin paying market rate rent on his Vatican apartment, or vacate the residence in early 2024.
The Pillar has confirmed that on Dec. 1, Burke received a letter from the Apostolic See dated Nov. 24, which explained that he is expected to begin paying market rate rents for his Vatican apartment, effective Dec. 1, or — if Burke is unable to do so — to surrender the apartment by Feb. 29, 2024.
The letter did not indicate what the market rate rent on the cardinal’s apartment actually would be, according to sources close to the process.
The Vatican’s letter was dated four days after Pope Francis reportedly announced measures against Burke, at a Nov. 20 meeting with the heads of Vatican dicasteries.
Italy’s La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana website reported Nov. 27 that the pope had “supposedly said” at the Nov. 20 meeting that the 75-year-old cardinal was “my enemy” and was taking away his apartment and salary as a retired cardinal.
Those reports were disputed in other outlets, but it does appear that Pope Francis made some announcement of his decision to apply the higher rent policy to Burke with the intention of evicting the cardinal.
Burke was a member of a group of cardinals who submitted dubia, formal questions, expressing doubts about the interpretation of Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and of another group who presented dubia to the pope this summer ahead of the synod on synodality’s first session.
While widely perceived as a theological skeptic of many of Francis’ signature documents, Burke has not, however, been convicted of multiple crimes in Vatican City, nor found guilty of embezzling Church funds or abusing his Vatican offices.