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Vatican court tosses criminal complaint against journalist

A Vatican City judge has dismissed criminal charges brought against an Italian journalist, ruling that the court has no jurisdiction over foreign media.

Judge Giuseppe Pignatone of Vatican City. Credit: Vatican Media.

The summary ruling, issued April 12, dismissed charges of publishing confidential state documents and defaming the head of state, Pope Francis, filed against Marco Felipe Perfetti of the Church affairs website "Silere Non Possum."

Vatican City judge Giuseppe Pignatone, who also led the tribunal which heard the landmark Vatican financial crimes trial which concluded last year, dismissed the case for a “defect of jurisdiction” Friday at an initial hearing lasting barely an hour.

The Vatican prosecutor’s office had previously filed similar charges against two Italian journalists during the Vatileaks trial, claiming they had published confidential information. The charges were tossed out by the same court in 2016 also on the grounds that the Vatican court had no authority over the Italian press.


In a statement sent to The Pillar, Silere Non Possum said it was essential to clarify the circumstances of the case, “to protect the good name of the Holy Father and the Holy See.”

According to a statement, sent following the ruling, the criminal complaints were lodged with the Vatican prosecutors’ office “by a political candidate for the next regional elections” whom it identified as Angelo Chiorazzo. 

The complaints were made “in reference to a post published by the editorial team which criticized the relationship between Chiorazzo and the current spokesperson of St. Peter's Basilica, Father Enzo Fortunato,” the website said. 

The site’s editorial team further alleged that the attempt to bring charges in Vatican City was ultimately in “retaliation for the denunciation carried out [by Silere] regarding the activities of Cardinal Mauro Gambetti [archpriest of St. Peter’s and Vicar General of the Vatican City State] and Father Enzo Fortunato in St. Peter's Basilica.”

The site also suggested the charges were in reference to stories it have published concerning the Bambino Gesù Hospital “which - from what emerges from the documents - did not comply with the transparency regulations desired by Pope Francis.”

Over the last several months and years, Silere Non Possum has published a series of stories about the Vatican City State and the Vicariate of Rome, which has recently been the subject of a variety of reforming efforts.

In 2021, Pope Francis asked the Holy See’s auditor general to audit the Diocese of Rome.

In early 2023, the pope issued an apostolic constitution overhauling the governance of the Diocese of Rome. Among the changes made by the document were term limits for executive positions and new offices for financial oversight and protection of minors and vulnerable persons.

The changes also diminished the authority of the vicar general of Rome, at the time Cardinal Angelo De Donatis.

Last week, the pope transferred De Donatis to the Apostolic Penitentiary.

In addition to questions about financial operations, the Diocese of Rome has been criticized in recent months for its support of Marko Rupnik, the priest, former member of the Society of Jesus, and alleged serial sexual abuser.

Last September, the Vicariate of the Diocese of Rome came under fire for releasing a statement questioning the legitimacy of his canonical prosecution against Rupnik and downplaying the scandal surrounding him.

The failed bid to bring a case against the site has also drawn criticism of the city state’s chief prosecutor, Promoter of Justice Alessandro Diddi, who formally filed the charges. 

Diddi was promoted to become the Vatican’s chief public prosecutor in the middle of the Vatican’s landmark financial crimes trial in 2022.

He had previously served as deputy prosecutor, leading the investigation and prosecutor of the 10 defendants in the financial trial.

Diddi became well-known for his bullish courtroom style and his combative exchanges both with defendants and witnesses. 

He has also, at times, faced criticism for how he conducted both the initial criminal investigation into possible financial crimes, and the prosecution.

Diddi’s decision to charge 10 people simultaneously in a nearly 500-page indictment covering a wide range of often unrelated alleged crimes, instead of charging individuals with specific crimes in separate cases, led to questions of his judgment.

On April 15, the Holy See announced Diddi’s department was being reinforced with a new appointment. Dr. Giuseppe Deodato, a former deputy public prosecutor in the city of Rome’s civil court, was named applied promoter of justice, an adjunct position in the Vatican City prosecutorial office.

Deodato has a background in economic and financial security sciences and is also a former officer in the Italian financial police, possibly signaling the Office of the Promoter of Justice will be pursuing a new round of financial prosecutions.

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