Vatican is not a 'den of thieves,' says top Vatican official

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican is not “a den of
thieves,” and such insinuations are an injustice to employees who are
proud to serve the pope and the church, said Archbishop Angelo Becciu, a top
official in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Necessary economic and administrative reforms and
countermeasures have been taken to address any problems, he told the Italian
weekly Panorama in an interview published in the issue dated Jan. 20.

“I must reiterate firmly that we are not a bunch of
corrupt and incompetent people,” he said in a lengthy interview conducted
at the Vatican Dec. 31.

“The Vatican is not a den of thieves. To represent it
as such constitutes an absolute falsehood. I find it extremely unjust that our
employees, proudly carrying out a service for the pope and the church, have
gotten to the point, for some time now, of being ashamed to tell people they
work here,” he told the weekly.

Archbishop Becciu, 67, has been substitute secretary for
general affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State — a job similar to a chief
of staff — since 2011.

A large portion of the Q&A interview focused on
accusations of financial mismanagement illustrated in recent books by Italian
journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of “Merchants in the Temple,” and
Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of “Avarice.”

The two authors are on trial at the Vatican for
“soliciting and exercising pressure” on their alleged sources in
order to obtain confidential documents and news. Also standing trial on
accusations of forming an “organized criminal association” with the
aim of “committing several illegal acts of divulging news and
documents” are Spanish Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the
Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; Francesca Chaouqui, a
member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of
the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See; and Nicola Maio, who had
served as personal assistant to Msgr. Vallejo.

Archbishop Becciu said “stealing those documents was a
crime, a deplorable act that does not help.”

“The right of journalists to publish news they come to
have is not in question. The misgivings concern the way in which this news was
obtained. There is a trial underway that will find out,” he said.

Regarding Msgr. Vallejo and Chaouqui, the archbishop said
their “betrayal was a slap in the face to the Holy Father. They had sworn
on the Gospel to not reveal to anyone what they saw, heard and read in carrying
out their assignment” as members of the commission to reform Vatican
financial practices.

When asked why money donated by the faithful for Peter’s Pence is
being used primarily to fund the Roman Curia — only about two euro out of ten
donated goes to charity — the archbishop said if the Vatican were to earmark,
for example, 60 percent of the funds to charity “we would have to
immediately fire 400 people” out of the current 4,000 Vatican employees.
“We prefer not to load the Italian government with this further
burden” of unemployment and to abide by the pope’s request to reform
without layoffs, he said.

The charitable fund’s balance sheets are “public and
approved by the Holy Father and the council of cardinals,” adding that it
can be seen the money is used to support Vatican Radio, the Vatican newspaper
and the various Vatican diplomatic representatives abroad who channel the
pope’s financial support to mission churches and the poor.

The archbishop was asked to comment on the fact cardinals
living in Rome reside in very large apartments while Pope Francis has chosen to
live in a small set of rooms in a Vatican guesthouse. The archbishop said the
apartments date back to the 1930s “when the cardinals were in effect
considered princes of the church and were treated as such.”

He said Nuzzi’s suggestion of moving the cardinals into the
more modest Vatican guesthouse would be “populist bordering on the

There would be the problem of where to then house the
priests who are living at the guesthouse, he said; “We would have to
build another building to house them,” which would be a “huge
waste” of resources, and all the large cardinal residences would be left

When asked why the property would be left unoccupied, the
archbishop said only Vatican citizens and employees are allowed to live in
Vatican-owned properties.

“Imagine the pandemonium that would be let loose if by
accident they ended up being rented to tax evaders or in any case individuals
wanted by the law who could benefit from immunity” by living in Vatican
City State instead of Italy, he said.

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