Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu has resigned from his position as Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and renounced the rights associated with the rank of Cardinal. A statement Thursday evening from the Press Office of the Holy See conveyed news of the development, but gave no reason for the resignation, and left some question regarding the former official’s precise status.
The prelate – Becciu – has been at the centre of controversy surrounding a shady London real estate deal currently under investigation.
The development is truly surprising – Becciu was scheduled to preside over a beatification this coming weekend in Naples – and extraordinary: Pope Francis created Becciu a cardinal only in 2018, around the time the suspicious real-estate development partnership centred on a property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London was facing major crisis. Becciu had been the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See when the deal was first struck, and shepherded the Vatican side of the partnership for years.
Last year, the Catholic News Agency reported that Becciu appeared to have obscured some €200 million in loans by offsetting them against the value of the Sloane Avenue property the borrowed money purchased. Concern over the Sloane Avenue speculation turned into suspicion and led to raids last year on offices in the Secretariat of State, the suspension or dismissal of several lower-ranking officials, and the charging of an Italian businessman – Gian Luigi Torzi – also reportedly tied to the deal.
CNA has also reported on Becciu’s alleged involvement with failed attempts to rescue an Italian hospital – the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata – that collapsed under €800 million in debt resulting from fraud and embezzlement. The former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has also been widely reported as having a significant role in stymying the financial reform efforts undertaken by Cardinal George Pell.
Becciu was also involved in the 2017 dismissal of the Vatican’s first Auditor-General, Libero Milone. Becciu claimed Milone had far exceeded his mandate and was “spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff,” among them Becciu himself. Milone denies the allegations and maintains he was framed.
Becciu has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in connection with the various controversies. No one really knows why Becciu resigned – except Becciu himself, and (it is reasonably safe to presume) Pope Francis. Becciu has issued no statement. The Holy See’s statement, again, gave no indication of the reason for the resignation. Becciu also apparently remains a member of the College of Cardinals, though without the rights of rank.
The language of the Press Office statement announcing Becciu’s resignation and renunciation of cardinalatial rights is different from the one that accompanied the resignation of Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals in July of 2018. The statement regarding Becciu more closely resembles the that with which the Press Office announced the late Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien’s renunciation of the rights and prerogatives of cardinalatial rank in 2015.