Secret Recording of Pope Is Played in Court

It concerned the Holy See's payments to free nun held hostage by al-Qaeda-linked militants
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 26, 2022 5:50 AM CST
Vatican Court Hears Secret Recording of Pope
Pope Francis attends his general audience in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

The Vatican tribunal weighing a financial fraud case heard from an unusual witness Thursday, when a secret recording of Pope Francis was played to the court about the Holy See’s payments to free a nun held hostage by al-Qaeda-linked militants. The broadcast of the pope’s own voice in the courtroom marked a surreal new chapter in a trial that has already seen plenty of twists as Vatican judges try to determine who, if anyone, is criminally responsible for losing tens of millions of euros in Holy See assets, reports the AP.

Vatican prosecutors introduced the recording into evidence Thursday, saying it was part of a trove of material recently obtained from Italian financial police who are investigating a Sardinian charity linked to Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a onetime close Francis collaborator who is one of the 10 defendants in the Vatican trial. According to Prosecutor Angelo Diddi, Becciu and a family associate secretly recorded Francis on July 24, 2021, three days before the Vatican trial opened, when Becciu spoke to him by phone from his Vatican apartment. While most of the defendants are facing charges related to the Vatican’s 350 million euro investment in a London property, Becciu is on trial for alleged abuse of office and embezzlement in relation to his dealings with the Sardinian charity and with a self-styled security analyst who is also on trial, Cecilia Marogna.

In the recording, Becciu asks Francis to essentially confirm that the pope had authorized the payments to a British firm that Marogna had identified to negotiate the freedom of a Colombian nun who was kidnapped in 2017 in Mali. Francis, who had just been released from a 10-day hospital stay, was familiar with the case and essentially concurred, according to several lawyers who heard the recording. Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez was kidnapped in Mali in February 2017 by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which had bankrolled its insurgency by kidnapping Westerners. During her captivity, the group periodically showed Narvaez on video asking for the Vatican’s help.

Becciu had told the court on May 5 that he had raised her plight with Francis and that the pontiff had agreed to spend up to 1 million euros to hire the British firm, Inkerman Group, to find the nun and secure her freedom. She was eventually released last year and met with the pope. While the recording cast a questionable light on Becciu for having secretly recorded the pope, it substantiated claims by Becciu and other defendants that Francis was indeed familiar with, and in some cases approved, some of the expenditures that are at issue in the trial.

(Read more Vatican stories.)

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