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Cardinal Becciu claims Pope authorized $1m ransom, talks Cardinal Pell

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Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media for Aleteia - published on 05/06/22

Cardinal Becciu, on trial for real estate dealings, has comments on nun and Cardinal Pell.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who is a defendant in a Vatican trial regarding real estate in London, spoke at length during the hearing of May 5, 2022, about Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, but also about other actors who have appeared repeatedly in this case. In particular, he explained for the first time the nature of his relationship with Cecilia Marogna—also in the dock—before giving his version of the facts concerning Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal Becciu’s relationship with Cecilia Marogna

Freed from pontifical secrecy, the Sardinian cardinal spoke at length about the case of Cecilia Marogna. This woman, in her 40s, presents herself as an expert in informal diplomacy and moves in an environment close to Italian intelligence. The Vatican justice system is accusing her of embezzlement of a sum of money that was allocated to her by Cardinal Becciu for hostage rescue missions, but which she allegedly used to travel to prestigious hotels and make expensive purchases in luxury stores such as Prada and Louis Vuitton. 

The cardinal said he met Marogna in 2016, at her request, and immediately appreciated her “expertise in geopolitics and intelligence.” Meeting with her on numerous occasions thereafter to discuss “geopolitical and international security issues,” he said he was impressed by her network, which included leading figures in Italian security. Cardinal Becciu also noted that she had the trust of the former archbishop of Cagliari (the capital of her native Sardinia), Archbishop Arrigo Miglio. 

His collaboration with Marogna reportedly intensified after a kidnapping in Mali — Colombian sister Gloria Narváez was taken February 7, 2017, by militants linked to al-Qaeda. She was released in October 2021. Pressed by the nun’s community and the apostolic nuncio in Colombia, the cardinal then reportedly spoke to Marogna, who suggested they call upon a British intelligence firm, The Inkerman Group.

Papal authorization

Cardinal Becciu reportedly presented this solution to Pope Francis, who gave him “the authorization to proceed”, inviting him “to take personal responsibility for the initiative.” The Pontiff also asked him not to mention this intervention to anyone, not even to the commander of the Vatican gendarmerie, in order to avoid “exposing the Vatican to useless and even harmful publicity.”

The Sardinian claims to have visited the Inkerman officials in London, who he says estimated the cost of the operation at about one million euros, without certainty of success. Part of the sum was to be allocated to the “operations of establishing the network of contacts” and the rest to the “effective release of the nun.” 

The cardinal presented the offer to the Pope, who is said to have “approved.” “Every step of this operation has been agreed upon with the Holy Father,” insisted the cardinal. 

From then on, Marogna reportedly served as an intermediary so as not to involve the Vatican directly in this affair, especially for the payments. The cardinal said he had given “the utmost confidence” to the work of his compatriot and had always followed the instructions received, “always accompanied by information on the activities carried out and to be carried out.”

“No amount was allocated to Ms. Marogna as compensation,” he also said. He did not comment on how the Italian woman had used the money paid by the Secretariat of State.

Considering that the pope had entrusted the operation to him personally, Cardinal Becciu continued to follow up on it after leaving his post as substitute in 2018. His successor, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, reportedly expressed doubts for a time about the payments that continued to be made through Cecilia Marogna, but the matter was settled after a personal intervention by the Pontiff.

Cardinal Pell’s “misunderstanding”

At the end of his spontaneous statement, Cardinal Becciu briefly answered a question that is not related to the trial: that of the accusations made against him by Cardinal George Pell. The latter was prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy from 2014 and then was put on leave in 2017 after being indicted for accusations of abuse of minors in Australia, which led to a stay in prison, but from which he was finally acquitted in 2020. The Australian cardinal explained that in his former position, comparable to that of a finance minister, he repeatedly clashed with Cardinal Becciu, who allegedly denied him any access to financial information about the Secretariat of State.

After his release, Cardinal Pell reportedly raised doubts about the use of $2m sent by the Vatican to Australia. Based on testimony given by Msgr. Perlasca, he suggested that this money might have been used, at the request of Cardinal Becciu, to finance his opponents during his trial in Australia. This is a version that Cardinal Becciu has categorically denied on several occasions. 

In response to this “very serious” insinuation, Cardinal Becciu presented a letter from Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin that he claimed showed “the absolute falsity of this ignoble and unbearable deduction.” What’s more, the letter states that the sum was in fact “used to pay for the ‘.catholic’ Internet domain.” This information was shared with the Australian Embassy to the Holy See. 

In addition, the Sardinian cardinal claimed that he had discovered that it was Cardinal Pell himself who had authorized the payment of this sum in a letter dated September 11, 2015. The Italian said he was “sorry that Cardinal Pell fell into this misunderstanding.” 

Vaticanist Maria Antonietta Calabrò published a statement from Cardinal Pell on her Twitter account the day after the hearing, in which Cardinal Pell said that the 2015 payments he “allegedly authorized” were different from the payments of which he was suspicious, which were from 2017 and 2018 and allegedly amounted to $2.3 million Australian dollars.

Furthermore, he claims that the first payments were made by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, while the second were made by the Secretariat of State and authorized by Cardinal Becciu. “Truth is the daughter of time,” he concluded. 

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