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Former Vatican auditor suing the Holy See dies aged 63

Ferruccio Panicco, the former deputy auditor general of the Holy See, died on Wednesday following a years-long illness.

Panicco, 63, suffered from cancer for a number of years and had accused the Holy See of seizing and withholding his personal medical records, delaying his treatment and ensuring an eventual terminal diagnosis.

He died at his family home in Turin, in northern Italy, at about 5 a.m. on June 21, sources close to the family told The Pillar. Panicco served as the number two in the Office of the Auditor General from 2015 until 2017, when he was forced from his role, along with his long-time collaborator Libero Milone, the Vatican’s first auditor general. 

Panicco is survived by his wife and two children.


In November last year, Pannicco and Milone announced they had filed a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal against the Holy See Secretariate of State in Vatican City court over the circumstances of their forced departure from office.

Both men said they were fired when they discovered financial corruption among senior curial officials and have been suing for more than 9 million euros in compensation for loss of earnings, damage to their reputations, and emotional suffering. 

That sum includes 3.5 million euros Panicco was seeking in material damages for the seizure of personal medical records from his Vatican office which, he said, led to a year-long delay in his diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer, which subsequently progressed to the terminal Stage 4 diagnosis from which he died.

Panicco said that when he was fired, medical records kept in his office were seized by Vatican police. Those records showed that Panicco had heightened PSA levels, a key marker for prostate cancer. They also showed the results of medical tests Panicco underwent in the Vatican’s clinics.

Without the records, Panicco had to find a new urologist after he was fired, and repeat the medical tests he had already taken.

“I estimate that the delay in the diagnosis could be at least 12 months, and I think that without this delay in the diagnosis it would have been early enough not to have an incurable disease,” he told the media last year.

Despite requests to Cardinal Parolin and other officials for the return of his medical records, the documents were never returned.

“​​I think they — the Vatican — are guilty, not maliciously, of sentencing me to death for no reason, after a slow and significant suffering,” Panicco said last year.

As part of the pre-trial process in the lawsuit, Panicco and Milone filed several hundred pages of documents which they said proved they discovered widespread corruption among senior curial officials at the Vatican, and supported their contention that they were forced from office by then-sostituto at the Secretariate of State Cardinal Angelo Becciu and threatened with criminal prosecution for “spying” on the financial affairs of cardinals like Becciu.

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In response to the lawsuit, in which the auditors have claimed for loss of earnings and reputation, the Secretariat of State has filed a litany of procedural objections to the case to prevent it coming to trial. 

The first round of those objections were dismissed by Vatican City judges in March, who found that the city state’s civil court had jurisdiction in the case and that the two auditors had deposited sufficient argumentation to indicate how they would substantiate their claims at trial and provided sufficient supporting evidence for the case to proceed.

The Secretariat of State responded with further procedural objections, arguing that the legal window for Pannico and Milone to file a legal claim had closed during a period in which the secretariat had begun negotiations with the men on possible compensation.

Also party to the case is the Vatican public prosecutor’s office, the Office of the Promoter of Justice, which reopened the criminal investigation for “spying” against the two auditors shortly after they filed their lawsuit. 

Key to the auditors’ claims, according to a court filings reported by The Pillar in March, is that it was the then head of the Vatican Corps of Gendarmes, Domenico Giani, who along with Cardinal Becciu forced their resignations.

The former auditors claimed that Giani engaged in his own financial misconduct, and that when Milone discovered it, the police chief formally accused them of illicit spying. The former auditors also stated that their Vatican offices had been bugged and computers hacked. Libero Milone has said that although he made several complaints to Vatican police, the security breach was never investigated.

Speaking to The Pillar in November, Milone noted that Giani “had a reason to get me out,” because he had uncovered evidence of corruption in the Vatican police force.

The lawsuit remains ongoing.

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