Cleaning up the Vatican’s finances is no easy task: after the fraudulent acquisition of a building in London, involving various parts of the Curia, it is now the Fabric of St. Peter which is in turmoil.
A generous sun is shining over the Eternal City in this month of July 2020, and many Romans are going on holiday. But for the gendarmerie and the prosecutors of Vatican City the holidays still seem to be far away.
As a matter of fact, the pope has given somewhat unexpected “holiday duties” to those who watch over the laws and security of the smallest state in the world: on the occasion of the feast of the holy apostles Sts. Peter and Paul, on June 29, the Holy Father commissioned an investigation into the Fabric of St. Peter, the office which, since the 16th century, oversees the conservation and maintenance of St. Peter’s Basilica and the surrounding area.
The “Reverend Fabric of St. Peter,” as it is called, not only supervises the renovation works of the basilica, but also manages all the staff who work there to welcome the some eleven million annual pilgrims who visit the august sanctuary.
Cardinal Angelo Comastria, also an archpriest of the basilica, has been the head of the Fabric since 2005.
The services of the Auditor General recently pinned down a series of presumedly dubious contracts, relating to the renovation of St. Peter’s dome, a titanic four-year project begun a few months ago.
Irregularities appeared on the invoices of the service provider companies: in some cases, they were duplicated, while others mentioned work not provided for in the contracts.
Speaking to Domenico Agasso, for the Vatican Insider on July 1, a high prelate familiar with the apostolic palaces stated, “For some time there have been serious suspicions about the transparency of the management of the Fabric.”
Following these reports, Gian Piero Milano, promoter of justice at the Vatican City State Court—the equivalent of a prosecutor—after having informed the Secretary of State, seized documents and computer equipment at the Fabric headquarters.
Pope Francis finally decided to remove, de facto, Cardinal Comastri from the management of the Fabric, by appointing Archbishop Mario Giordana as extraordinary commissioner. The latter will hold the reins of an institution in turmoil until further notice, which serves to weaken the finances of the Church a little more, and especially its image.