By NICOLE WINFIELD, Related Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis approved spending as much as 1 million euros to free a Colombian nun kidnapped by al-Qaida-linked militants in Mali, a cardinal testified Thursday, revealing beforehand secret papal approval to rent a British safety agency to search out the nun and safe her freedom.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s bombshell testimony may pose severe safety implications for the Vatican and Catholic Church, since he supplied proof that the pope was apparently prepared to pay ransom to Islamic militants to free a nun, who was finally let go final yr.
Ransom cost are not often if ever confirmed, exactly to dissuade future kidnappings, and it is not recognized how a lot — if any Vatican cash — really ended up within the palms of the militants.
Becciu, who was as soon as considered one of Francis’ prime advisers because the No. 2 within the Vatican secretariat of state, had withheld his testimony from the Vatican tribunal for almost two years as a matter of state and pontifical secret. However he spoke freely Thursday in his personal protection after Francis launched him from the confidentiality requirement, offering essentially the most anticipated testimony of the yearlong trial to this point.
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Becciu is considered one of 10 individuals accused within the Vatican’s sprawling monetary fraud trial, which originated within the Holy See’s 350 million euro funding in a London property and expanded to cowl different alleged crimes. Prosecutors have accused the defendants of a bunch of crimes for allegedly fleecing the Holy See of tens of millions of euros in charges, commissions and unhealthy investments.
Becciu, the lone cardinal on trial, is accused of embezzlement, abuse of workplace and witness tampering, all of which he denies. On Thursday, his testimony lined the costs regarding his relationship with an Italian self-styled intelligence specialist who can also be on trial on embezzlement costs, Cecilia Marogna.
Marogna has informed Italian media that she helped negotiate the discharge of Catholic hostages in Africa on behalf of the Holy See. Vatican prosecutors accuse her of embezzling a half-million euros, citing financial institution data from her Slovenian holding firm that present wire transfers from the Vatican for unspecified humanitarian ends, and expenditures out of the account for high-end luxurious items.
Becciu testified Thursday that he employed Marogna as an exterior safety advisor, impressed by her grasp of geopolitical affairs and the belief she loved of two of Italy’s prime secret service officers, Generals Luciano Carta and Gianni Caravelli, who accompanied her to a gathering with Becciu within the Vatican in October 2017.
Becciu mentioned he turned to Marogna for assist following the February 2017 kidnapping of a Colombian nun, Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, in Mali. She had been kidnapped by al-Qaida within the Islamic Maghreb, which has bankrolled its insurgency by kidnapping Westerners. Throughout her captivity, the group periodically confirmed Narvaez on video asking for the Vatican’s assist.
Becciu mentioned he had heard from the Vatican’s nuncio in Colombia in addition to different sisters from the nun’s spiritual order asking for assist. He mentioned he introduced the matter to Francis in addition to Marogna, who he mentioned suggested him that she may work with a British intelligence agency, The Inkerman Group, to safe the nun’s launch.
Becciu testified that Francis approved him to proceed with the Inkerman operation, and forbade him from telling anybody else about it, together with the Vatican’s personal police chief. Francis was involved in regards to the safety and reputational implications if the information leaked, Becciu mentioned.
Becciu mentioned he and Marogna met with Inkerman officers at their London workplace in mid-January 2018.
Inkerman officers mentioned there have been no assurances of success and that the overall expenditure may attain 1 million euros, Becciu mentioned. As a result of the Vatican wished to stay exterior to any operation, Marogna turned the important thing middleman and the one to obtain periodic funds from the Vatican secretariat of state for the operation, Becciu testified.
Becciu mentioned he supplied Francis a preliminary oral readout of the London assembly on Jan. 15, 2018, whereas the pope was en path to Peru.
“He listened to me and confirmed my intention to proceed,” Becciu testified. “In a subsequent assembly with the Holy Father, as soon as in Rome, I spoke to him in additional element in regards to the dialog we had with the Inkermans and the sum that we should always have estimated in broad phrases: about 1 million euros, half to pay for the creation of a community of contacts, and half for the efficient liberation of the nun.”
“I identified that we shouldn’t have gone past that determine. He authorized. I need to say that each step of this operation was agreed with the Holy Father,” Becciu testified.
Narvaez was launched in October, 2021, after greater than 4 years in captivity. Quickly after, she met with Francis on the Vatican.
Becciu additionally responded to longstanding allegations towards him by Cardinal George Pell, who left his job because the Vatican’s monetary czar in 2017 to face historic intercourse abuse costs in his native Australia, for which he was finally acquitted. Pell clashed repeatedly with Becciu throughout his time on the Vatican and has repeated Italian media claims that Becciu authorized cash transfers from the Vatican to Australia that not directly aided within the intercourse abuse prosecution towards him.
Becciu on Thursday produced two letters to refute the claims: One from the present secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, explaining that the 1.46 million euros that was wired to Australia was to pay for a website identify “.catholic.” And the opposite, a Sept. 11, 2015 letter authorizing that expenditure, signed by none apart from Pell.
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