Accused of embezzlement, Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, and special delegate of the Holy Father to the Sovereign Order of Malta, was forced to resign on September 24, 2020. A sanction as rare as it is unexpected.
A laconic statement from the Holy See Press Office came out on the evening of Thursday, September 24: “Today, the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and related rights of the Cardinalate, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu.”
The next day, an article in the columns of L’Espresso, under the pen of Massimiliano Coccia, evokes Cardinal Becciu’s involvement in fraudulent financial transactions. The role of the high prelate in dubious investments made in London in 2012, which led to embezzlement, is probably one of the main causes of the disgrace of the one who was one of the most powerful figures in the Vatican.
In 2012, Angelo Becciu replaced the Secretary of State, in other words, the number two most influential of the Roman dicasteries. That year, the Secretary of State was investing between
€150 million and €200 million in a luxury building in one of the most upscale neighborhoods in the British capital.
An investment that caught the eye of Vatican justice department in 2019, when the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) - the “bank” of the Leonine city – was anxious about a loan of €150 million requested by the successor of Angelo Becciu, in order to finance the exit of the operation made in 2012.
Asked on his return from Japan on November 26, 2019, the sovereign pontiff himself acknowledged that there were “corruption issues” in the 2012 transaction.
According to Il Messagero, Pope Francis allegedly summoned the cardinal shortly before his resignation, telling him, “I have always appreciated you, I respect you, but I can do nothing else.”
For his part, and still according to the Italian daily, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints told Il Messaggero he was “shocked” and “troubled.” He called his resignation “a blow for me, for those who know and respect me, and for my family.”
Before adding, “Out of a spirit of obedience and out of love for the Church and the Pope, I accepted his request to step aside. But I am innocent and I will prove it. I ask the Holy Father to have the right to defend myself.” Said the porporato, who can now see how close the Tarpeian rock is to the Capitol in Rome.
The news of Cardinal Becciu’s resignation was welcomed with relief by another cardinal, Australian George Pell: “The Holy Father was elected to clean up the Vatican’s finances.… I hope the cleaning of the stables will continue,” the high prelate said on September 25th.
Appointed prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, Georges Pell was given the delicate task of “cleaning up” the Vatican’s finances, investigating the various Roman dicasteries, including the secretariat of state. He had then clashed with Cardinal Becciu on several occasions.
Several complaints of child abuse – of which Cardinal Pell was unanimously acquitted by the Australian High Court in 2020—would put an end to his mission, breaking in passing the life of a man who may have had the misfortune of taking a little too much interest in the smoldering files hidden in the Vatican cellars.