The Marogna affair, dubious investments in London, bribes in Australia, largesse in Sardinia: the former substitute for the Secretary of State took every available opportunity to clear himself of the charges brought against him during the fourteenth hearing of the trial currently taking place in the Vatican.
“Even in Angola, where I served as nuncio for seven and a half years, I was told that the national television channel had devoted a week of reporting on my subject!” The tone was set at the start of the fourteenth hearing of the trial, in the multipurpose hall of the Vatican Museums.
Journalists were on hand, on May 5, 2022, for the second part of Cardinal Angelo Maria Becciu’s interrogation, the main one accused in what the press describes as the “trial of the century.”
The fallen porporato began by speaking and, to get his version of things across, would not stop for more than two hours, throughout a preliminary declaration of 50 pages.
The high prelate was particularly expected to speak on the nature of his relations with Cecilia Marogna, a “security consultant” who received considerable sums from the Secretariat of State, for - according to her - carrying out classified intelligence activities, until a recent decision by Pope Francis. Sums of which a good part had been diverted for personal ends, according to the promoter of justice.
Msgr. Becciu is happy to be able to speak freely: “I thank the Holy Father for having lifted the pontifical secret, thus allowing me to speak freely and defend myself with complete transparency.”
As a good tactician, the accused knows that the best defense is an offense: “I must here forcefully express my indignation at the way this relationship has been distorted by hurtful insinuations, of the lowest nature – also prejudicial – to my priestly dignity,” asserted the cardinal.
Before adding: “this way of doing things also betrays a lack of consideration towards women in general, and leads me to wonder if a man would have received such treatment.”
The Sardinian prelate then confirmed that he hired Cecilia Marogna, because he was “impressed by her understanding of geopolitics and by the esteem granted to her by two senior Italian secret service officials, Generals Luciano Carta and Gianni Caravelli.”
If the young woman was recruited, it was to facilitate the release of a Colombian religious, Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, kidnapped in Mali by the organization Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
“Each stage of her release had been agreed to by the Holy Father” - including the payment of one million euros - adds the cardinal. The Holy Father invited me to assume direct responsibility for the initiative, specifying “that the matter should remain confidential between him and me.… I had no difficulty in serving the Holy Father, faithfully and scrupulously accomplishing his will.”
This officially confirms that the Vatican is ready to pay a ransom in exchange for the release of a hostage. However, it is common knowledge that countries that claim never to negotiate, discreetly pay ransoms.
For their part, the prosecution does not seem convinced, claiming to have proof of a transfer of 575,000 euros to the Slovenian accounts of Cecilia Marogna, and significant expense reports in the latter's name, spent on luxury brands, e.g., Prada and Vuitton, among others.
Regarding the London investments, the former substitute tried to pass the ball, but this time, to the camp of his former subordinates, explaining that he had always had “total confidence” in his collaborators whom he considered to be “more expert than he,” in all these financial matters.
On the sums paid through him to Ozieri, his diocese of origin, to enrich members of his family, the deposed cardinal replied that “his functions did not allow (him) to do that”; and losing his temper, says: “why were these false accusations reported to the Holy Father? How could the person of the Holy Father be exploited by creating a scandal of unprecedented gravity in the Church?”
On the transfer of funds from the Vatican to Australia – 1.4 million euros which was to be used to obtain the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, his sworn enemy in the Curia – Msgr. Becciu brushed aside the accusation with a wave of the hand: “For more than a year, I have been exposed to unbearable public vindictiveness through the shameful accusation of financing false testimony against a colleague, Cardinal Pell, and what’s more, with money from the Secretariat of State,” he protests.
If he admits that the sum in question has indeed been paid, it would only be “for the payment of the 'Catholic' Internet domain, an operation carried out with the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, the proof of which is in the report 2112/21/RS of February 18, 2021,” the defendant specified.
The hearing was due to end around 4:45 p.m. after a short interruption due to a heated battle between the Sardinian cardinal and Alessandro Diddi, the magistrate who is leading the accusation. The next hearing has been set for May 18, and will see the cardinal's questioning continue.
Like his co-defendants, Cardinal Becciu contributes – like a defense system – by casting the shadow of the pope over the trial. “I am from the old school, you know, the one where you learn In odiosis non feci nomen pontifici, that is to say that we try to preserve the moral authority of the pope by not involving him too much in earthly things. That does not mean that we do not keep him informed, but that we want to protect him.