Vatican court hears cardinal’s secret phone call with pope

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who is embroiled in a real estate scandal, reacts while speaking to the media a day after he abruptly resigned and gave up his right to participate in the last conclave to elected pope, near the Vatican, I

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A Vatican corruption trial on Thursday heard a secretly taped phone call between the main defendant, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, and Pope Francis.

The court said the recording was made without the pope’s knowledge by someone who was in Becciu’s room in July 2021, shortly before the trial began and while the pope was still recovering. major intestinal surgery.

Reporters were asked to leave the room while the tape was played, but lawyers who heard the tape said Becciu asked the pope to confirm that the pope had authorized payment to help release a nun who had been kidnapped. in Africa.

Lawyers say that during the call, the pope appeared confused and confused as to why Becciu was calling and that the pope had repeatedly asked the cardinal to send him a letter written about what he wanted.

In 2018, Becciu, then the third most powerful person in the Vatican, hired accomplice Cecilia Marogna, a self-proclaimed security analyst, to free a Colombian nun captured by an al Qaeda-linked group Toads in Mali.

Marogna, 44, received 575,000 euros ($598,630) from the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s most important body, in 2018 to 2019 while Becciu was working there. The money was sent to a company she had set up in Slovenia and she received some cash, the court was told.

Police discovered that Marogna had spent most of the money on personal purposes, including luxury designer clothes and health spas.

She was charged with embezzlement and Becciu was changed with embezzlement, corruption and abuse of office. They, like the other eight defendants, have denied any wrongdoing.

The chief prosecutor at the trial, Alessandro Diddi, told reporters on Thursday that he had begun a new phase of the investigation in which he suspects Becciu of criminal conspiracy. He said he sent the details to the court.

Becciu’s lawyers said in a statement that they were not aware of any new allegations. The statement does not comment on the secretly recorded phone call.

A year before the trial began, Francis fired Becciu on suspicion of nepotism. Becciu denies doing anything to help financially the family.

On Thursday, Becciu faced his own accuser, his former top aide, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca. He told the court he was ordered to make payments he deemed unusual.

He said he had sent 100,000 euros to a charity in Sardinia, at the time, without knowing that it was related to the Becciu family.

Becciu said the charity helped create jobs in a poor area.

The trial revolved around the State Department’s purchase of a building in London. The 10 defendants include former Vatican employees and Italian male middlemen who the prosecution alleges blackmailed the Vatican.

($1 = 0.9605 euros)

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