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Security leaks and corruption accusations at the Vatican

VATICAN ( The Vatican was hit with a double blow in late January with allegations of financial corruption in the governance of the city-state and an accusation that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had invested €1.6 million ($15.55 million) in what is known as a Ponzi scheme, a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns from investors’ money, or money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from actual gains.

The Vatican responded angrily to a January 25 television report aired by Network La7 in Rome, Italy, alleging financial corruption in the affairs of the Vatican, on a programme entitled Gil Intoccabili (The Untouchables).

Vatican press officer, Father Federico Lombardi, questioned the journalistic methods used by the programme editors, as the report showed what it called a confidential letter written to Pope Benedict XVI by the former secretary of state of the Vatican city-state governorate, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, arguing that he should stay in his job rather than take up a diplomatic position in Washington, the United States of America (US).

The archbishop was telling the pope that he had worked against corruption in business dealings and his removal would cause confusion among those in the administration who were addressing this and financial mismanagement.

However, Father Lombardi denied that Archbishop Vigano was being moved sideways, saying that Washington is regarded as one of the most important and sensitive posts in the Vatican diplomatic service.

In all events, he added that cleaning up any economic mess that may have occurred was the responsibility of a team of people and that the archbishop had not been the only one involved in streamlining expenditures and management processes.

However, without mentioning any names, he did admit that some of the accusations made in the television programme do warrant further investigation, while at the same time calling its presentation superficial and biased.

It has been reported that Archbishop Vigano’s appointment to the US came last year after a falling out with the secretariat of state, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone.

Journalist, Andrea Tornielli, reported that the Vatican says that it had fully investigated the claims made by Archbishop Vigano and found them to be unfounded.

However, the long time Vatican watcher commented that he finds it strange that the Vatican would appoint a man to a sensitive job like Washington after he had made ill-founded reports.

Father Lombardi described Archbishop Vigano as being good at his job, saying, “He has demonstrated administrative rigour, economisation and the improvement of what was a difficult overall economic situation.”

However, it has been suggested that the Vatican is more upset about the breach in security than the accusations of corruption. So a January 29 meeting of the heads of offices in the Roman Curia with the pope prompted a guessing game in the corridors of the Vatican, as no agenda is ever published for such gatherings and of late, most meetings of this nature have occurred in the wake of the series of public relations disasters the Vatican has experienced during the papacy of Pope Benedict.

However, none had involved a breach in top security.

It is also well known that not all is well in the camp of the secretariat of state, as Cardinal Bertone has been the butt of rumblings in the corridors over his appointment of Archbishop Vigano to Washington at such a sensitive time.

In another report, the Corriere della Sera accused the Congregation for the Causes of Saints of making a large investment in a fraudulent investment scheme run by Gianfranco Lande.

However, it was pointed out that the investment had actually been made by a Dominican postulator for saints’ causes, Father Francesco Ricci, who could be considered to be a client of the congregation, but certainly not a member.

The prefect of the congregation, Angelo Cardinal Amato, said that Father Ricci does not in any way belong to the congregation, but as a postulator only interacts with it in order to promote the causes that are being handled.

Father Ricci would have made the investment on behalf of his own order and is not being accused of any crime, or of being involved in the management of the scheme.

However, he may have made an unethical, unwise or inappropriate investment, either wittingly or unwittingly.

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