Vatican Finance Scandal Deepens

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 13, 2020   

Lay official under new scrutiny

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VATICAN CTIY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Financial scandals continue at the Vatican Secretariat of State.

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Gianluigi Torzi

There is a new development in the deal made by the Vatican Secretariat of State to purchase a property in England for more than $200 million. The property, located at 60 Sloane Avenue in Chelsea, London, was a former industrial building that was going to be converted into luxury apartments.

The hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase the property came from Peter's Pence — a special collection from the faithful around the world every June, meant to support the Holy See's charitable projects worldwide.

Now, it has been revealed that Fabrizio Tirabassi, a lay official at the Secretariat, was appointed director of a company owned by a financier who arranged the deal to purchase the London property.

Tirabassi was one of five Secretariat officials who were suspended in October 2019 in connection to a financial scandal investigation.

This comes from a report Monday by Ed Condon of Catholic News Agency (CNA), which notes, "Vatican sources tell CNA that appointment is now under investigation, as Vatican prosecutors continue their look into suspicious financial transactions and investments at the Vatican Secretariat of State."

A lay official at the Secretariat was appointed director of a company owned by a financier who arranged the deal to purchase the London property.

To finalize the property deal in 2018, the Secretariat hired businessman Gianluigi Torzi as a middleman. Torzi was paid 10 million euros for helping to bring the purchase to completion. 

Also in 2018, CNA's report explains, Tirabassi "was appointed a director of Gutt SA, a company owned by Torzi and registered in Luxembourg."

In October 2019, leaked documents from a Vatican police raid shed more light on the scandal over the Secretariat of State's speculative oil investments. The leaked documents implicated both Cdl. Pietro Parolin, secretariat of state, and his deputy, Abp. Edgar Peña Parra, in the financial scandal.

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Last December, a report in the Wall Street Journal stated, "What the church doesn't advertise is that most of that collection, worth more than 50 million euros ($55 million) annually, goes toward plugging the hole in the Vatican's own administrative budget, while as little as 10% is spent on charitable works, according to people familiar with the funds."

In January this year, a layperson in Rhode Island filed suit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), claiming the bishops misled the faithful about where their donations to Peter's Pence were actually being directed. 

There are reports that priests lived in some of the apartments located at the London property, with some calling it 'a sort of lurid London getaway' for clergy living in sexual sin.

The lawsuit stated, "Having collected hundreds of millions of dollars from faithful and well-meaning donors for the poor in immediate need of assistance, USCCB must now account for itself and the money with which it was entrusted, and, in the interests of justice, it must disgorge the funds that were not spent as promised."

In February, Vatican investigators raided the office and residence of Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, former head of administrative office of the First Section of the Secretariat of State — part of an ongoing probe into the financial scandal surrounding the purchase.

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Msgr. Alberto Perlasca

There are reports that priests lived in some of the apartments located at the London property, with some calling it "a sort of lurid London getaway" for clergy living in sexual sin.

Previously, the money used to purchase the property had been put into purchasing a 5% share in Falcon Oil.

In addition to the London property scandal, money from Peter's Pence has also gone toward the 2019 Elton John biopic film Rocketman — a movie that features an explicit gay sex scene.

News came out early last December that Maltese investment firm Centurion Global Fund — whose largest investor is the Vatican — funneled about $1.1 million into the film's production.

Much of that money came from Peter's Pence — meaning a portion of the pro-gay film's budget ultimately came from the wallets of Catholics in the pews.

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