A VATICAN judge has ordered five people, including a Spanish monsignor and two journalists, to stand trial in connection with the leaking and publication of documents about Vatican finances. The criminal trial was scheduled to begin on Tuesday in the small Vatican courtroom behind St Peter’s Basilica. Those called to trial are: Mgr Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See; Nicola Maio, who served as personal assistant to Mgr Vallejo Balda when he worked on the commission; Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of Merchants in the Temple; and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of Avarice.
The Vatican said Mgr Vallejo Balda, Ms Chaouqui and Mr Maio are accused of forming an “organised criminal association” with the aim of “committing several illegal acts of divulging news and documents concerning fundamental interests of the Holy See and [Vatican City] State.” Under the Vatican criminal code, it is a crime to take, distribute or publish confidential documents. Mr Fittipaldi and Mr Nuzzi, the Vatican said, are accused of “soliciting and exercising pressure, especially on [Mgr] Vallejo Balda, in order to obtain confidential documents and news”, which they then used for their books. The books went on sale in early November. The Vatican said that if any of the five were not present they would be tried in absentia.
Mr Fittipaldi and Mr Nuzzi both responded by saying the decision to bring them to trial was a violation of press freedom. On Twitter Mr Nuzzi has been using a hashtag in Italian that translates as “No Inquisition”. Mr Fittipaldi said: “This isn’t a trial against me. A free press is on trial.” Both Mr Fittipaldi and Mr Nuzzi have written books illustrating what they claim is serious financial mismanagement in the Vatican. Much of the evidence they cite allegedly comes from documents written by or for the commission that Pope Francis established in July 2013 to reform Vatican financial practices. Mgr Vallejo Balda and Ms Chaouqui were members of that commission.
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