The 15th hearing of the London Building trial, held at the Vatican on May 18, 2022, continued the interrogation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, which began during the previous hearing. I.MEDIA has selected the key pieces of information which came to light during the eight hours of exchanges – sometimes heated – between the defense and the Promoter of Justice, Alessandro Diddi.
1The Holy See did not pay a ransom
Asked by the Promoter of Justice about the sums used to free Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez – a Colombian nun who fell into the hands of jihadists between 2017 and 2021 – Cardinal Becciu refused to answer. At the previous hearing, he had mentioned the payment of a sum of one million euros to a British agency through Cecilia Marogna.
To speak in more detail about this sum could jeopardize “the protection of the Holy Father, the Holy See and the many missionaries still present in remote and dangerous territories,” the cardinal assured. He also vigorously refuted the use of the term “ransom” regarding this sum.
2On Cecilia Marogna
The cardinal went into more detail about his relationship with Cecilia Marogna who presents herself as an expert in informal diplomacy. He explained that she had simply “stayed to talk until late” and that when she left, the nuns who work in his house said that “she did not want to go back to the hotel for fear of the Covid” and that she had therefore “slept in their quarters.”
Quoting Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed – one of Pope Francis’ favorite readings – he recalled the episode where Brother Christopher opens the door of his monastery to young Lucia to help her. And he recalled his response to those who protested: “Omnia munda mundis” – all is pure for the pure, in Latin.
The cardinal also assured that he had called the woman when the press had accused her of spending the money she was given to free the nun on luxury goods. He said that he was “convinced” by her explanations, and that he subsequently phoned her a few times and met her once after her brief incarceration.
3A “good press campaign” against the magistrates
During the hearing, however, the cardinal acknowledged that he had written this message to Enrico Crasso: “When the time is right, we should have a good press campaign to unmask our magistrates.” He explained that he wrote it to support a man who seemed “desperate.”
The cardinal was also asked about his relationship with the press during the hearing.
4The cardinal recently spoke with the pope
“In recent days I asked the pope if I could speak freely and he said yes,” the cardinal spontaneously said concerning the case of the resignation of former auditor general Libero Milone. At the previous audience, he had refused out of “love for the Holy Father” to say what role he had played in the ouster, which occurred in June 2017.
Pope Francis had in fact simply asked him to inform Libero Milone “that as of today he no longer enjoys the confidence of the Holy Father and to ask him to present his resignation,” he explained, and he would have complied the same day. He denied having any responsibility for his resignation, and assured that he was only carrying out “an order received” from the pontiff.
5The cardinal continues to point to Monsignor Perlasca
Cardinal Becciu once again explained that the investments of the Secretariat of State were made “solely on the basis of the verifications and proposals of the Administrative Office” headed by Monsignor Alberto Perlasca. “I have never made strategic investment decisions,” he insisted, assuring that this was the case for the acquisition of the London building.
Regarding the latter, the cardinal continued, Monsignor Perlasca did not warn him about “any critical aspect of the investments.” “I had confidence in Monsignor Perlasca,” he insisted, considering him to be an “expert and a connoisseur” of financial matters.
6A long and tense hearing
Most of the hearing was taken up by the questioning of Alessandro Diddi, who presented hundreds of documents to the cardinal, to which the latter replied tirelessly: “I do not know, I do not remember.” This moment generated a lot of tension, with Judge Giuseppe Pignatone being forced to curtly reframe the Promoter of Justice at one point and then interrupt the session.
7Archbishop Perlasca as civil party
The constitution as civil party of Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, requested in the previous hearing, was partially accepted. Only the charge of bribery of the one who appears to be the key witness of the trial was accepted, allegedly on behalf of Cardinal Becciu.
8The rest of the trial
Two more hearings are planned for this week, on May 19 and 20. They should allow for the end of the interrogation of Cardinal Becciu and the first interrogation of the official of the Secretariat of State, Fabrizio Tirabassi.