Surreal Atmosphere at Cardinal Becciu’s Trial

September 13, 2021
President Giuseppe Pignatone

In the midst of a busy summer, the first hearing of the trial involving Cardinal Angelo Maria Becciu went almost unnoticed. In addition to the former deputy secretary of state, nine people were represented on July 27, 2021 - failing to be present in the dock - for an alleged financial fraud case.

The Holy See wanted to make this trial an example of its new policy of financial transparency, but, as Vaticanist John Allen points out in Crux on August 29, the first hearing took place in a “surreal” atmosphere, in the context of a “rivalry” between two magistrates present.

On one side, Giuseppe Pignatone, president of the court, and therefore of the college of the three judges hearing the case.

Appointed to this position by Pope Francis in person, in 2019, the magistrate distinguished himself for several years through his fight against the Roman mafia: in five years of activity, about forty officials were put under lock and key, through his meticulousness.

Opposite the president of the Vatican court stands another great figure in Italian law: Alessandro Diddi, one of the three promoters of justice, a lawyer known for defending Salvatore Buzzi, one of the main mafia pursued by Giuseppe Pignatone.

The latter character, highly unrecommended, had boasted of making more money from migrant exploitation, than with drug trafficking.

A new act of the duel between two stars of the Italian bar may have taken place on July 27: Cardinal Becciu's lawyers blamed the prosecutor - the equivalent of the attorney general - for not handing over to the court all the evidence, including a video recording of the testimony given by Msgr. Alberto Perlasca.

A former executive of the Secretary of State - he served as head of the administrative section of the first section between 2009 and 2019, at the time of the alleged facts - the prelate is one of the key figures in the case.

At the end of the July 27 hearing, Giuseppe Pignatone then ordered Alessandro Diddi to hand over the video recording no later than the following August 10.

On the eve of the deadline, the prosecutor said the court order was “inadmissible” on the pretext that it would “irreparably compromise the right to privacy” of the persons concerned.

This refusal is being questioned, and more than one observer wonders whether, in addition to the confrontation between the president of the court and the prosecutor, other persons involved in the registration may benefit from protection.

“I hope with all my heart that Cardinal Becciu is innocent.” The pope said he felt for Becciu “an affective presumption of innocence.” But “I’m not afraid of transparency or the truth,” Pope Francis said in an exclusive interview broadcast on COPE radio on September 1.

It’s all about whether transparency and truth will be at the forefront of a trial that is definitely turning heads in Rome.