The Vatican has announced it has placed two Italian journalists under investigation in its probe over leaked documents that appear to reveal waste, greed and mismanagement by the Church’s hierarchy.
Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi wrote two books that claim to reveal the uphill battle Pope Francis is facing in reforming Vatican bureaucracy. Their books, released last week, were based on leaked documents from a reform commission Francis named to investigate the Vatican’s finances and propose reforms so that more money could go to charity.
Already, two members of the commission who had access to the documents have been arrested by Vatican police.
Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said on Wednesday that Nuzzi and Fittipaldi had been placed under investigation by Vatican magistrates for their alleged role in dealing with the leaked documents. He said other officials were being looked at for having possibly cooperated in the scandal.
Reached in Berlin, Nuzzi said he knew nothing of the investigation. Fittipaldi was quoted by his L’Espresso magazine as saying the investigation was the price he has to pay for doing his job.
In the Italian and Vatican legal systems, people are frequently placed under investigation without charges ever being filed as part of the information-gathering process by investigative magistrates. It wasn’t immediately clear that the Vatican would have jurisdiction over the two journalists if they saw or obtained the documents outside Vatican territory.
After Nuzzi published another book in 2012 based on documents given to him by Benedict XVI’s butler, the Vatican criminalised the leaking of documents.
The new books were based on internal reports that appeared to reveal millions of euros in lost rental income from the Vatican’s vast real estate holdings and millions in missing inventory from the Vatican’s tax-free store.
Singled out for particular criticism has been Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Fittipaldi’s book, Avarice, claims that the foundation of Italy’s pre-eminent children’s hospital, the Holy See-owned Bambino Gesu, paid €200,000 ($215,000) to renovate the cardinal’s Vatican apartment after he retired. Cardinal Bertone has insisted he paid €300,000 for the work from his own pocket.
On Wednesday, Cardinal Bertone confirmed that he had recently learned that the foundation had also paid the bill but that he had never told it to do so. In a letter to the newsweekly of his former Genoa diocese, he added he had asked his lawyer to investigate and that he would take action if any “fraudulent action had been conducted in my name.”
Since the publication of the books, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith has denounced as “unacceptable” reports that it had rented out a number of its buildings at below-market rates, saying all of its properties are rented at market prices with a few exceptions for charitable reasons.
The congregation, also known as Propaganda Fide, uses its rental proceeds to fund the Church’s activities in the developing world, as well as the Pontifical Urbaniana University which trains priests and nuns from poor countries. It insisted that it was fully on board with Francis’s reform agenda amid previous reports that it had resisted turning over financial information to the reform commission and the Vatican’s new Secretariat for the Economy.
Pope Francis’s top deputy, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said that the reports have bordered on “hysteria” and were simply “attacks on the Church.”
He acknowledged, however, that Francis’s reform agenda has run into “resistance.”
“Changing things is always difficult because we’re always tempted to continue in the daily ho-hum way we do things,” Cardinal Parolin told Vatican Radio. But he said the key was to “transform what can be normal resistance in the face of change into tools for reform.”
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