Rome (AFP) – The Vatican Cardinal, sacked by Pope Francis amid an investigation into corruption, has sacked a lawsuit against an Italian news magazine, claiming his shattered reputation eliminated his chances of becoming pope and would undermine the legitimacy of any future papal elections.
Cardinal Angelo Picchio is seeking € 10 million ($ 11.9 million) in damages for charity, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the court of Sassari, Sardinia, against L’Espresso, the weekly of the Italian daily La Repubblica.
The 74-page complaint raises questions about the conduct of the Vatican’s criminal prosecutors, indicating that they leaked information to L’Espresso as they sought to build a corruption case around the Holy See’s € 350 million ($ 416 million) investment in a real estate project in London. .
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, he said Becciu had not been investigated in this case or any other case yet.
Bisio resigned on September 24 as governor of the Vatican’s Salvation Office after Francis made allegations that he had sent about 100,000 euros ($ 119,000) of Holy See money to a Sardinian charity controlled by his brother. Picchu admitted he sent the money to the charity – not his brother – and told reporters he had done nothing wrong.
Becciu at the time of the transfer was No. 2 in the Vatican State Secretariat, and had full authority to manage the department’s large asset portfolio, including its use for charitable donations.
In his legal complaint, Becciu claimed that his dismissal was a successful business co-ordinated with L’Espresso, breaking his brother’s payment story into a story that went to the presses on September 24.
The complaint alleges that Francis had a copy of the magazine article on his desk during the September 24 meeting at which he sacked Picchu, indicating an internal leak of the article to the Vatican. L’Espresso’s publisher said some early editions “disappeared” from the printer that night and ended up on the Pope’s desk.
The complaint also says that approximately eight hours before Becciu’s meeting at 6 pm with Francis, L’Espresso created a webpage with an article titled “This is the reason why Cardinal Picchio resigned.” Citing the timestamp of the site’s metadata, the complaint alleges the magazine learned of Picio’s drop before he did, indicating coordination with the Vatican.
L’Espresso leads the accusation against Becciu, with a series of articles not taken from speculative sources identifying the plaintiffs’ case against him, some of which cited unnamed Vatican investigators, but others did not provide any support for the magazine’s allegations.
Vatican prosecutors have been investigating the real estate project in London for more than a year but have not pressed charges against anyone. Bicchio’s ouster came just days before the Vatican began showing off its efforts to increase financial transparency and accountability during a visit by evaluators from the Council of Europe’s Anti-Money Laundering Committee. The Moneyval Commission has blamed the Vatican Court in the past for failing to investigate or prosecute alleged financial crimes.
In his complaint, Peccio said the damage to his reputation harmed him personally as well as the Catholic faithful in general.
As a powerful cardinal with pastoral, diplomatic and Vatican experience, Becciu was considered “the papal” before his downfall. But the complaint said that by forcing him to waive his rights as a cardinal, Becciu lost his chance to become a Papa one day.
The complaint also states that Becciu’s absence from the future secret meeting as a voting cardinal “could raise questions about the validity of the election”, splitting the church and requiring a costly second meeting.
L’Espresso complied with its reports, calling his claim a “horrific attack”. In Italy, journalists can be charged with criminal and civil defamation.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Marco Damilano, did not deny that the Pope had an advance copy of her story, but said it was ludicrous to think that “one newspaper article” prompted him to dismiss Pisio.
Damilano writes: “Lespresso is accused not only of influencing the current Pope, but also of the Holy Spirit who would have chosen Picchu as his successor, if there was no article preventing his ascension.”