Vatican City, Dec 2, 2019 / 07:30 pm (CNA).- In a letter to a veteran Italian journalist, Cardinal Angelo Becciu wrote Monday that he was not involved in the purchase of a bankrupt Italian hospital, and that reports to the contrary are unreliable.
“The press release of Prof. Antonio Maria Leozappa, president of the Luigi Maria Monti Foundation, published by you on November 28, reconstructs with exact precision the story of the IDI and, by confirming what was previously said by Card. Parolin, exonerates me completely from any involvement, contrary to what you have asserted,” Becciu wrote in a Dec. 2 letter to journalist Sandro Magister.
The press release to which Becciu referred came from the president of a legal partnership between the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, an Italian religious order that once owned Rome’s IDI hospital. The hospital was purchased from the religious order by that partnership in 2015, with funds borrowed from the Vatican’s central bank, in violation of European regulatory agreements.
Becciul has been frequently reported to have helped arrange the loan, and to have helped facilitate a controversial request for a grant from the U.S.-based Papal Foundation to repay it.
In fact, Magister reported Nov. 28 that “when these events occurred, it was common knowledge at the Vatican that Becciu played a leading role in the matter.”
Nevertheless, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told CNA Nov. 20 that, contrary to media reports, it was he who had arranged the loan and grant request, and not Becciu, who was his subordinate from 2014 to 2018.
“To an outside observer it is not clear how much is true or put on in this role play between the cardinal secretary of state in office and the one who from 2013 to 2018 was his ‘substitute,’” Magister wrote of that admission.
Leozappa’s Nov. 28 press release did not offer detail about how the controversial loan was actually arranged, or supply a list of Vatican figures involved in the process. Instead, it explained some details about the accounting vehicles by which borrowed money funded the 2015 purchase of the hospital, and confirmed the transfer of funds between the Secretariat of State and the foundation. Becciu was not mentioned in the press release.
Becciu’s letter did not offer details about how the cardinal understood Leozappa’s statement to “exonerate” him. Nor did the cardinal indicate how he confirmed that Leozappa explained with “exact precision” a process in which he says he was not involved.
The cardinal’s letter did, however, address another Vatican scandal to which Becciu has been connected: the Secretariat of State’s investment in a London luxury apartment development.
“The accusation that I did not take into consideration the contrary opinion of Cardinal Pell on the operation of the development of the London apartment is baseless, for the simple reason that the then-Prefect of the SPE [Secretariat for the Economy] was never consulted on the matter, since it was not within his competence to control the accounts of the Secretariat of State. To do that he would have needed the authorization of the pope, something that was never granted to him.”
Becciu was responding to a report that Cardinal George Pell had in 2015 raised questions about a loan obtained by the Secretariat of State to fund its invest in the London property development. Multiple senior sources at the Vatican’s Prefecture for the Economy had told CNA those questions led to a disagreement between Pell and Becciu, an allegation which Becciu’s letter did not directly deny.
In the same letter, Becciu told Magister that he disputed some aspects of CNA’s reporting on that matter, and said CNA had admitted to him that some of its sources were unreliable. CNA has not stated that its sources are unreliable.
The cardinal also sought to distance himself from Msgr. Mauro Carlino, his former secretary, who was suspended after an October raid ordered by Vatican prosecutors.
“To say that I more than others are entered into the eye of a media storm for the fact that Msgr. Carlino was my personal secretary is a simplistic explanation and inconsistent,” Becciu told Magister.
Becciu has been under close media scrutiny for months, as reports from several media outlets have reported on his connections to two emerging financial scandals at the Vatican. The cardinal has consistently denied his involvement in illicit or inappropriate financial activities.
Although the London property development involves multiple holding companies and ambigious funding sources, Becciu has defended the London property deal as “accepted practice.” Parolin characterized it as “opaque,” and Pope Francis said of the transaction this month that unnamed Vatican administrators have “done things that do not seem clean.” The investment remains the subject of a major Vatican investigation.
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