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As Cardinal Becciu goes to court, Francis’ financial reforms also on trial

Giovanni Angelo Becciu Trial

Title
: As Cardinal Becciu goes to court, Francis’ financial reforms also on trial
Author: Jason Berry
Publisher: National Catholic Reporter (NCR)
Date: 27JUL2021

The Vatican is opening criminal proceedings on July 27 against Giovanni Angelo Becciu, a once-powerful cardinal demoted by Pope Francis last fall, and nine other defendants. They are charged with embezzlement and other crimes linked to a 2013 investment of a purported $240 million in a London real estate venture that kept swallowing money until it went bust, leaving an approximate $415 million Vatican loss.The trial marks an emboldened turn in Francis’ papacy, likely to surpass other forensic dramas in the chain of scandals since “Vatileaks,” when Pope Benedict XVI’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, went to prison in 2012 for leaking papal documents to an Italian reporter. In that trial, the magistrate barred key evidence from a secret report by three cardinals that could have shed light on who assisted Gabriele.

In the current trial, the prosecution’s web work of links among defendants has attacked the leaders of both the Vatican bank (formally, the Institute for the Works of Religion) and the Vatican’s wider financial watchdog apparatus.

The trial before a magistrate has no jury. Prosecutions in Western courts rely on a story, a simpler-the-better narrative in proving guilt. This one resembles a police procedural directed by Fellini.

Still, the trial is the sharpest sign of Francis’ evolving legal strategy in response to church scandals.

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