The powerful Vatican cardinal Becciu resigns in a scandal

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ROME (AP) – Powerful head of Vatican saints manufacturing office Cardinal Angelo Becciu abruptly resigned on Thursday and resigned as cardinal amid a financial scandal that has indirectly implicated him. .

The Vatican did not provide any details on the reasons why Pope Francis accepted Becciu’s resignation in a statement on Thursday night. In announcing a sentence, the Holy See only said that Francis had accepted Becciu’s resignation as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints “and his rights related to the cardinalate.”

Becciu, the former No. 2 of the Vatican Secretariat of State, has been implicated in a financial scandal involving the Vatican’s investment in a real estate transaction in London that has cost the Holy See millions of euros. fees paid to intermediaries.

The Vatican prosecutor has placed several Vatican officials under investigation, as well as intermediaries, but not Becciu. Becciu defended the merits of the initial investment and denied any wrongdoing, and it is unclear whether the scandal itself was the cause of his resignation or may have triggered a separate investigation.

But the latest news of his resignation, the severity of his apparent sanction, the speechless release of the Vatican and the unexpected downfall of one of the most powerful Vatican officials all suggested a shocking new chapter in the scandal, which rocked the world. Vatican. since a year.

The last time a cardinal’s rights were taken away was when American Theodore McCarrick waived his rights and privileges as a cardinal in July 2018 as part of a sexual abuse investigation. He was then completely defrocked by Francis last year for sexually abusing adults and minors.

Prior to him, late Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien relinquished his rights and privileges as a cardinal in 2015 after unidentified priests alleged sexual misconduct. O’Brien, however, was allowed to retain the title of cardinal, and he died a member of the College of Cardinals, the elite group of clergymen whose main task is to elect a pope.

In the Vatican statement, the Holy See identified Becciu as “His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Becciu,” clearly stating that he remained a cardinal but without any rights.

At the age of 72, Becciu could have participated in a possible future conclave to elect François’ successor. Cardinals over the age of 80 cannot vote. But by giving up his cardinal rights, Becciu gave up his participation rights.

Becciu was the “substitute,” or first deputy secretary of state from 2011 to 2018, when Francis appointed him cardinal and transferred him to the Vatican saints ’manufacturing office. He rode two pontificates, having been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI and charged with leading essentially the Curia, or Vatican bureaucracy, a position which gave him enormous influence and power.

The financial problems date back to 2014, when the Vatican embarked on a real estate business by investing more than $ 200 million in a fund managed by an Italian businessman. The deal gave the Holy See 45% of the luxury building at 60 Sloane Ave. in the Chelsea district of London.

The money came from the Secretary of State’s portfolio of assets, which is funded largely by Peter’s Pence donations from Catholics around the world for the Pope to use for charitable and Vatican spending.

The Holy See decided in November 2018, after Becciu left the secretariat of state, to get out of the fund, end his relationship with the businessman and buy back the rest of the building. He did so after Becciu’s successor determined that the mortgage was too expensive and that the businessman was losing money to the Vatican in some of the fund’s other investments.

The buyout deal, however, cost the Holy See tens of millions of euros more and triggered the Vatican investigation which has so far involved half a dozen Vatican employees.

Becciu insisted he was not in power in the 2018 buyout deal and has always acted in the sole interest of the Holy See. In the Vatican prosecutor’s initial term, Becciu is not named, and it is still unknown whether his role in managing the vast secretariat’s portfolio of assets was linked to his resignation.

His former boss, Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, said the whole matter was “opaque” and needed to be clarified. Francis, for his part, vowed to get to the bottom of what he said was evidence of corruption in the Holy See.

Francis met regularly with Becciu in the role of the Italian as prefect of the office of making saints, for every month or two he presented lists of candidates for a possible beatification or canonization for Francis’ approval.

In addition, since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis had an annual lunch at Becciu’s apartment with 10 priests on the Thursday of Holy Week before Easter. The Vatican has always reported that the meetings were an opportunity for the pope to discuss informally with Becciu and the priests of his diocese on the day the church celebrates the institution of the priesthood.

Lunch did not take place this year amid the Vatican coronavirus lockdown.

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