A Vatican court has heard an audio recording between Pope Francis and Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the defendant in the trial, in which the cardinal asks the Pope to confirm that he authorized payments to help free a kidnapped nun in Africa.
Journalists were not allowed to listen to the recording, but the transcript of the Italian financial police was subsequently published by the Italian news agency Adnkronos. The three defense lawyers at the trial also later confirmed the contents of the conversation to Vatican journalists present.
The recording was made by a third person in the room with Cardinal Beccu during a telephone conversation that took place on July 24, 2021. The call comes three days before the start of the Vatican trial in which Beccu is accused of embezzlement and abuse of power. office and just 10 days after Francis was released from the hospital after bowel surgery.
In a telephone conversation, Becciu asks the Pope to confirm that he authorized payments the cardinal made to a self-proclaimed security consultant named Cecilia Marogna, who is also accused of embezzlement in court, in order to pay British firm Inkerman in turn. Group to help secure the release of a nun kidnapped by Islamic militants in Mali in 2017, the transcript says.
The amounts paid, according to Cardinal Becciu, who at the time was second in command at the Vatican Secretariat of State, were €350,000 ($363,706) to the British firm and €500,000 ($519,580) in ransom for the nun.
According to the transcript, the Pope said on the phone that he vaguely remembered and asked the cardinal to put in writing what he would like the Pope to confirm.
Under Vatican law, the Pope cannot be called as a witness in a trial.
Cardinal Becciu, who was fired from his job and stripped of most cardinal rights by Pope Francis in September 2020, has always maintained that any financial transactions he made had the full approval of his superiors, including Pope Francis. Becciu and Maroña both pleaded not guilty to all charges in court.
A statement from Becciu’s lawyers, sent to CNN on Thursday, did not comment on the secretly recorded phone call.
The revelations of a secretly recorded phone call and that Pope Francis knew about the Vatican’s financial dealings are just the latest in a long and complicated lawsuit centered on the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury building in London, in which 10 defendants are accused of fraud and extortion.