Vatican leaks reveal dirty dealings

2015-11-04 05:39
Thousands gather for Easter Sunday at the Vatican (AP)

Thousands gather for Easter Sunday at the Vatican (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Vatican City - Wiretaps of the pope's private conversations allegedly recorded by a racy social climber and a Spanish prelate are rocking the Catholic Church after confidential information including claims of theft and debauchery was passed to investigative journalists.

Two books by the investigative journalists set to be published on Wednesday claim charity money was allegedly spent on refurbishing the houses of powerful cardinals, while the murky Vatican bank continues to shelter suspected criminals.

Suspected moles - PR expert Francesca Chaouqui and Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda - arrested at the weekend for allegedly stealing and leaking classified documents, risk up to eight years in prison if the case gets to court.

There was no official confirmation they had passed confidential information to journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, but the Vatican on Tuesday published a statement on the arrests which also slammed the books.

While Vallejo Balda languishes in jail, Chaouqui, 33, was released after assuring investigators of her co-operation in a case which has thrown light on Pope Francis's struggles to clean up a centuries-old institution unwilling to give up its privileges.

"I am totally innocent and I'll prove it," La Stampa daily quoted the dark-haired woman dubbed a "sex bomb" by Italian media as saying, adding that Vallejo Balda "did everything, I tried to stop him".

The recording and publication of the pope's private conversations "is the most controversial aspect of all the dust blown up by the second Vatileaks," the Repubblica daily said, comparing the scandal to a similar one three years ago.

Then, it was Pope Benedict XVI's butler who leaked documents revealing fierce infighting in the highest echelons of the Church and allegations of serious fraud. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, before being pardoned by the pope but banished from the Vatican forever.

'Wealth, scandals, secrets'

In wiretaps transcribed in Merchants in the Temple by journalist Nuzzi, Francis can be heard asking, "if we don't know how to look after money, which we can see, how can we look after the souls of the faithful, which we cannot?"

The pope also tells people described as "collaborators" by Nuzzi that "the costs are out of control".

Journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, who is releasing Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis' Church, reveals how Church foundations for sick children act as bank accounts for cardinals.

He told a press conference on Tuesday that former Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone redirected funds from a Vatican-run hospital to do up his loft apartment and ran up outlandish expenses including a €23 800 helicopter ride in 2012.

Fittipaldi also said he had access to documents showing that the Saint Peter's Pence offerings sent to the Vatican from parishes around the world - totalling some €378m in 2013 - ended up in an account used largely to pay for Vatican bureaucracy rather than for charitable purposes.

A Vatican statement on Monday denounced the upcoming works as "fruit of a serious betrayal of the pope's trust" and said it was considering legal action.

Religious experts said the leaks may have been motivated by frustrated ambitions, with Vallejo Balda, 54, publicly passed over for promotion and Chaouqui frustrated in attempts to climb the Vatican's social ladders.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday Chaouqui denied leaking "even one piece of paper" and said "there is nothing I have ever loved more or defended more than the Church and the pope".

Revengeful mudslingers

The former Ernst & Young lobbyist was selected to be part of a special commission set up by Pope Francis to advise him on economic reform within the Church - an appointment which raised eyebrows in 2013 after it emerged she had been highly critical of the Vatican on Twitter in 2012.

Tweets - which she claimed were written by a hacker - included one which said Pope Benedict had leukaemia, one which said high-ranking Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was corrupt and one which accused a former Italian minister of being gay.

The Vatican's embarrassment only increased when racy photos of her went viral on the internet.

There were immediately questions as to whether Chaouqui, who has Moroccan origins, might be behind a rumour last month, denied by the Vatican, that Francis has a benign brain tumour.

The trained lawyer, who is reportedly pregnant, hit the headlines again in 2014 when she was suspected of having organised a lavish party for the rich and famous on a Vatican terrace at the Holy See's expense.

It was Vallejo Balda who reportedly provided communion for 150 VIPs from a gaudy crystal cup - much to Francis's fury.

Francis was tasked by his cardinal electors to stamp his authority on the bickering Curia, the Church's governing body, and clean up the Vatican bank - but the fresh leaks looked set to fuel criticisms of his reform programme.

Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  pope francis  |  vatican city  |  corruption

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.