Vatican Launches New Corruption Probe

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by Paul Murano  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 2, 2020   

Prosecutors order removal of financial documents

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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican is apparently continuing to fight financial malfeasance.

On Tuesday, criminal prosecutors in Vatican City authorized the seizure of financial documents and computers from offices that manage St. Peter's Basilica. The same day, Vatican officials confirmed that Pope Francis had named a special commissioner and tasked him with fixing financial irregularities at the Pope's basilica.

The role of the new commissioner, Bp. Mario Giordana, is "to centralize contracting and procurement procedures in order to cut waste, root out corruption and update the Vatican's financial management."

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Bp. Mario Giordana

Francis' Clean-up Orders

These financial responsibilities of the extraordinary commissioner were contained in norms issued by Francis on June 1. In addition, the Vatican said on Tuesday the commissioner will also run the basilica, reorganize its offices, update its statutes in compliance with new Vatican norms on procurement and contracting, and 'clarify its administration.'"

The Vatican confirmed that its decision to raid the basilica and to name an extraordinary commissioner stemmed from a report by the Vatican's auditor general. The Vatican said that based on the auditor's report, it had authorized its criminal prosecutors to investigate "financial irregularities" in the offices that manage the basilica's, Fabbrica di San Pietro, which is responsible for organizing tours of underground excavations along with managing, cleaning and restoring one of the Pope's basilica.

This is the latest in a string of scandals relating to financial corruption within the walls of the Vatican.

The Vatican, however, provided neither details on what exactly the auditor had flagged nor on what specific financial irregularities the commissioner was tasked with fixing.

Giordana had investigated financial irregularities with the Sistine Chapel Choir last year. This investigation had led to the early retirement of the choirmaster, Monsignor Massimo Palombella, who resigned after allegations of fraud and embezzlement were leveled. The choir, one of the oldest in the world, sings at all papal Masses in the basilica.

 

This is the latest in a string of scandals relating to financial corruption within the walls of the Vatican. Church Militant has been reporting for the past year on Vatican-related financial improprieties.

Corruption Continues

In 2019, Vatican prosecutors had launched an investigation into the Vatican Secretariat of State's purchase of a luxury London building amid allegations that middlemen had fleeced the Holy See out of millions of euros. No indictments have been handed down in that case.

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Vatican's London property

Also in 2019, money that originated from Peter's Pence, the pope's charitable fund for the poor, had been used to help finance the movie Rocketman, detailing Elton John's life and homosexual exploits.

In November it was revealed that, after pressure from Vatican authorities and American bishops, the Papal Foundation, a U.S.-based charity, gave $25 million to Rome's failing Dermatopathic Institute of the Immaculate (IDI). While American donors were told their donation would be used to cover a temporary budgetary shortfall, insiders reported the sum was intended to help clear IDI's €50 million ($55 million) debt, sparing scandal to then-Secretary of State Cdl. Angelo Becciu.

The Vatican has also been allegedly investing in various speculative offshore operations using Credit Suisse bank, "in whose Swiss and Italian branches the Vatican is paid up to about 77% of the assets managed." 

According to documents leaked to Italian media, the Secretariat of State owns and manages roughly $715 million in funds, a sum "deriving in large part from donations received by the Holy Father for charitable works [Peter's Pence] and for the sustenance of the Roman Curia."

In October of last year, documents obtained by Italian journal L'Espresso offer details into a Vatican raid of the Secretariat of State and the Financial Intelligence Authority, seeking information on alleged misappropriation of $200 million from Peter's Pence. The Vatican's chief prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, is quoted as saying their investigation identified "serious indications of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, money laundering and self-laundering."

The recent seizure of documents from St. Peter's basilica is the latest scandal in which the Vatican is attempting to clean up amid financial impropriety and moral corruption.

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