Is there a Becciu affair?

Par Don Pio Pace

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The spectacular fall of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, in the last days of the month of September, created quite a turmoil in Bergoglian Rome. It is important though to look at this affair in its context and even put things into perspective.

Giovanni Angelo Becciu made his carreer in the vatican diplomacy since 1984. In 2011, while a Nuncio in Cuba, he was appointed by Benedict XVI Substitute for the General Affairs at the State Secretary, second in position after the Secretary of State. He was confirmed by Pope Francis, while State Secretary Bertone was replaced by Pietro Parolin.

One of the characteristics of the manner pope Francis governs, following an old habit contracted in Buenos Aires, is in playing his collaborators against each other. In this way, he agreed Pietro Parolin and Angelo Becciu would quash the financial reform carried by Cardinal Pell: indeed, they pulled out the Secretariat of State from the audit of all the financial entities of the Vatican which had been ordained in June 2016 by Cardinal Pell, and notably they pulled out what had to do with the financial management of Angelo Becciu. Then, the pope let them push away, without lifting a finger, the very competent but unobliging Cardinal Pell, from the Secretariat for the Economy.

In the same way, the derivative functions of Cardinal Burke, cardinal patron of the Order of Malta, were suspended at the time of the settlement of the matter of the Order: Mgr Becciu was appointed special delegate of the pope to lead the Order in place of the Grand Master. This time, though, all was handled without Parolin having a say.

April 2017: Angelo Becciu was then at the top of his popularity. But, in 2018, Parolin intervened in a way that looked like Becciu was being promoted when, in reality, he was being put away: Mgr Becciu was made cardinal, and then appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Pietro Parolin replaced him as Substitute for the General Affairs with Venezuelan prelate Edgar Peña Parra.

But, at the same time, critics against the methods of Angelo Becciu were increasing within the pontifical government: in 2012, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), the “Vatican Bank”, had been invited without explanations by the services of Mgr becciu to provide help with a complex transaction which could appear risky by making a transfer of 150 millions of euros in order to complete the final purchase of a 17,000 square meter building (180,000 sq. ft) in the very upscale London district of Chelsea.

On 1 October 2019, the Vatican gendarmerie launched a raid to seize computers and confidential documents in the office of the General Affairs section of the State Secretary (and in those of the AIF, the Financial Information Authority, an independent organization in charge of the fight against money laundering!). This caused some prelates to lose their calm, one of them Mgr Mauro Carlino who had been the right arm to Cardinal Becciu.

Came the final act, also quite typical of the bergoglian government since the Argentine era when executions maintained a climate of what was considered a salutary fear: on 24 September 2020, Pope Francis, at the end of a stormy meeting on both sides, “accepted the resignation” of Cardinal Becciu from his position as Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and informed him he was deprived of “all the rights of the cardinalate.” The Republica immediately went on to acknowledge the courage of the pope who, they wrote, was not afraid to intervene at the highest level despite the hindrance of a Curia refusing to reform. Obviously, it was the message they wanted out: “by dismissing him, write Jean-Marie Guénois from French daily Le Figaro, on 25 September 2020, quoting very well informed vatican sources, the pope would give a “spectacular sign” of the cleaning up being carried out against financial corruption in the Vatican “with the same vigor than his battle for transparency regarding the affairs of pedophilia.”

At the time of this dismissal, as the inquiry continued, leftist media, L’Espresso and La Repubblica, had under press articles discussing suspicious increase in family wealth. Becciu, the day after his resignation, will deny all malversation: conceding having sent 100,000 euros to the Caritas organization directed by his brother in his home diocese of Ozieri, he will then assure the money had been spent properly. What is certain is that to “make more productive” the money of the Holy See, he never hesitated to use set ups and complex financial circuits involving businessmen close to him.

Because ultimately, it is important to understand that this affair, a simple episode in itself though particularly spectacular, in the regular run of a very pronounced mode of government, takes place in a climate of ever growing worries regarding the financial future of the Holy See, deprived notably of financial resources coming from the United States (not to mention those, substantial still, coming from the Vatican museums, now deserted due to the sanitary crisis).

Pio Pace