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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (ChurchMilitant.com) - A high-ranking Vatican cardinal known for preaching poverty is being charged with profiting to the tune of potentially millions from financial mismanagement.
The Italian journal L'Espresso reported Thursday that Cdl. Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, nicknamed the "Vice Pope" for his level of influence and closeness to Pope Francis, is being investigated for financial misdeeds, including questionable investments of diocesan funds and large sums received from the Honduran government through a Church-controlled agency.
Bishop Jorge Pedro Casaretto, a papal envoy sent by Francis earlier this year to investigate, submitted a report in late spring showing that Maradiaga was paid about $42,000 a month from the Catholic University of Tegucicalpa, where he is Grand Chancellor, with a December bonus of $64,200, raking in a total of $600,000 from his salary in 2015.
More than that, multiple witnesses allege Maradiaga invested up to $1.2 million of diocesan money in firms in London that later "vanished into thin air."
A Honduran court is also investigating the government's donation of tens of millions of lempiras (equivalent to several million U.S. dollars) to the Foundation for Education and Social Communication, under the control of Maradiaga. The court is also looking into enormous amounts of money coming through the Suyapa Foundation, which controls the diocese's newspaper and TV — also under Maradiaga.
The report was informed by more than 50 witnesses, clerical and lay.
According to members of the papal household, "The Pope is a sad and a saddened person, but also a very young person at the discovery of the truth."
Maradiaga has been among the more vocal prelates to support Pope Francis' call to build a "poor Church for the poor," and gained a reputation in Latin America during his clerical career for fighting corruption and defending the poor. The Holy Father appointed him head of the "Gang of Nine," the pope's council of cardinal-advisors, to help him reform the Curia.
Pope Francis is reportedly mulling over the credibility of the accusations and is yet to issue a final determination. Maradiaga turns 75 on December 29, when canon law requires that he submit a resignation letter. It will be up to the Holy Father to accept or reject the resignation.