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Rome Reports

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How is the Cardinal Becciu trial affecting the Vatican?

It's been called the “Trial of the Century”: the case brought against former

Vatican Chief of Staff, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, and his role in the failed $400 million London property deal. Unsubstantiated claims and uncomfortable contradictions have so muddied the waters over the past few months that it’s hard to make sense of what’s happening anymore. There are at least three elements of the case that still need to be clarified.

The first is the issue of what can only be termed a “parallel diplomacy”. Despite the Vatican having centuries of experience in the field, Cardinal Becciu has confirmed tasking Cecilia Marogna, a self-described security consultant, with setting up a parallel diplomacy to help release Catholic hostages in conflict zones. According to case documents, Marogna and the Cardinal were cooperating in negotiations to secure the release of a kidnapped Colombian nun – an enterprise that required spending over one million U.S. dollars.

Secondly, the list of people involved in the trial extends way beyond Cecilia Marogna and Cardinal Becciu. Mainly because the tactic of parallel diplomacy helped open the door to several other controversial characters. Marogna concedes she had dealings with an Italian businessman by the name of Piergiorgio Bassi, who in turn acted as an intermediary for two Russian emissaries. 

Thirdly, there's the problem of ongoing accusations and allegations – most of which have still to be proved. Some time ago, in a statement to the presiding judge, Cardinal Becciu claimed the Pope himself authorized the one million dollars to rescue the nun. For her part, Cecilia Marogna alledges the amount allocated was more than that agreed upon. When accused of spending the difference on luxury items for herself, she responded saying she had no written contract with the Vatican and therefore no obligation to justify her expenses. Cardinal Angelo Becciu has always claimed that accusations against him of mishandling Vatican financial resources are unfounded.

At this stage, the trial has dragged on too long for it to have anything like a satisying ending. There are some positive outcomes, though: the first is that the Vatican is learning a series of lessons, the hard way, about how better to coordinate it activities. It's also already imposed a much stricter system of checks and balances. Investing in shady property deals is definitely off the table. At least for now.