The judges met on February 18, 2022, in the multipurpose room of the Vatican Museums, for the seventh hearing of a trial introduced in July 2021. It was a turning point for Vatican justice, but it has become mired in procedural challenges.
Festina lente -- hasten slowly. At 4 1/2 hours, The seventh hearing of the trial on the allegedly dubious financial investments of the Secretary of State was longer than the previous one, which lasted about 40 minutes.
The hearing was preceded by a review of one of the main defendants, present on February 18, 2022, in the dock: Cardinal Angelo Maria Becciu addressed the many journalists present for the occasion.
The former deputy secretary of state returned to the wide-ranging searches carried out by the Italian financial brigade on February 15 in Rome and in the Sardinian towns of Ozieri, Bono, and Pattada, all strongholds of the fallen porporato.
Msgr. Becciu said he was “very distressed” by the latest developments, although he stressed that the prosecutor and finance authorities “were very kind” to him, assuring him that this was “a normal action after receiving a new report that came from the Vatican prosecutor’s office.”
In front of reporters, Cardinal Becciu wanted to deliver his truth, denying the new accusations that he had embezzled a estimated 100,000 euros of funds from the Secretary of State to redirect them to Spes, a Sardinian branch of Caritas, led by his own brother, Tonino Becciu.
The continuation of this investigation is “a humiliation for the diocese and for the bishop,” lamented the former substitute, saying “we affirm for the umpteenth time, and, hopefully the last, that the Diocese of Ozieri has always operated respectfully with regard to religious purposes and solidarity on an economic level.”
“I want to express all my solidarity with the bishop who has suffered these humiliations,” Msgr. Becciu concluded before rushing into the multipurpose hall of the Vatican Museums, where he joined the only other accused present, Msgr. Mauro Carlino.
As a first step forward, the various strands of the case have now all been unified in the proceedings as Giuseppe Pignatone, in his capacity as President of the Tribunal, wished.
The lawyers of the 10 accused filed a new appeal for annulment, arguing that prosecutors have avoided sharing all the evidence collected during their investigation, including the interrogation of Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, a key witness in the case. From fear - according to some - of questioning, even indirectly, the person of the sovereign pontiff.
At this seventh hearing, the Financial Information and Supervision Authority (ASIF) decided to join the trial’s civil action, with other bodies of the Holy See, such as the Secretary of State, the Institute of Roman Works (IOR) and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA).
During the hearing, among other things, there was a heated exchange between the promoter of justice, Alessandro Diddi, and Gianluigi Torzi’s defender, the lawyer Marco Franco, who argued that the rights of his client “have been repeatedly violated as well as his right to a defense.”
Mr. Diddi replied dryly tit-for-tat: “Do you really take responsibility for what you say? I am giving you a little advice, beware of slander.” To which Franco replied: “Am I supposed to feel threatened?” Giuseppe Pignatone then intervened to restore calm.
The chairman finally decided to adjourn the meeting until the morning of February 28, the date on which the action for annulment should be considered. If everything goes as planned, the eighth hearing will take place on March 1 and they will finally get to the heart of the matter.
The trial on the risky investments by the Secretary of State is still advancing in slow motion, even though it is supposed to represent a turning point for Vatican justice in the era of Pope Francis’s reforms.