Vatican Corner 10-04-2020

On Sept. 24, 2020, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 72, one of the highest-ranking cardinals in the Catholic Church unexpectedly resigned his position and gave up his cardinal rights. There was no immediate explanation from the Vatican. In a press conference the next day Cardinal Becciu said that Pope Francis told him that “I no longer have trust in you.” Becciu said he was told to resign and it had come “like a bolt out of the blue” He said the Pope’s statement was based on a report from the magistrates accusing Becciu of embezzlement, nepotism and financial malpractice. The Cardinal denied any wrongdoing and said there had been “a misunderstanding.” He said he asked the Pope “why are you doing this to me, in front of the whole world?” Becciu said the Pope “was suffering” when he delivered the news to him. Becciu said up until yesterday “I felt I was a friend to the Pope, the faithful executor of the Pope.” Becciu told an Italian website that he was being forced out because he was suspected of giving Church money to his brothers. He said “I didn’t steal even one euro. I am not under investigation but if they send me to trial, I will defend myself.” From 2011 to 2018 the then Archbishop Becciu held the Vatican position of sostituto, which is like the pope’s chief of staff, and may be the most powerful Vatican job other than the papacy. He oversaw the Vatican’s  ambassadors, traveled with the Pope, played a major role in running the Vatican government, and was apparently a major character in alleged attempts to undercut Vatican financial reforms. He was the one who suspended the financial audit of all Vatican departments by PricewaterhouseCoopers which had been approved by Cardinal George Pell, who Francis had brought to the Vatican from Australia to be the chief’s economic official. Cardinal Pell was ultimately removed from that job due to his involvement in a sexual abuse case. He returned to Australia for trial in 2017. Pell supporters constantly, but quietly, blame his removal to a conspiracy lead by Cardinal Becciu. Cardinal Pell was convicted and an appellate court upheld his conviction, but in April 2020, the Australian High Court acquitted Pell of the accusations of abuse of minors and overturned his sentence. In 2018 Bishop Becciu was made a Cardinal and head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. That is the current Vatican position he has been forced from. It looks like Becciu will remain a cardinal, but in name only, and will not have the rights of a cardinal and would not be able to vote for the next pope. Over the years Becciu has been linked with various financial irregularities, but has always vigorously insisted he had done nothing wrong.