Saint maker quits over links to fi­nan­cial scan­dal

The Timaru Herald - - World -

The pow­er­ful head of the Vat­i­can’s saint-mak­ing of­fice, Car­di­nal An­gelo Bec­ciu, re­signed sud­denly yes­ter­day from the post and re­nounced his rights as a car­di­nal amid a fi­nan­cial scan­dal that has re­port­edly im­pli­cated him in­di­rectly.

The Vat­i­can pro­vided no de­tails on why Pope Fran­cis ac­cepted Bec­ciu’s res­ig­na­tion in a state­ment yes­ter­day. In the one-sen­tence an­nounce­ment, the Holy See said only that Fran­cis had ac­cepted Bec­ciu’s res­ig­na­tion as pre­fect of the Con­gre­ga­tion for the Causes of Saints ‘‘and his rights con­nected to the car­di­nalate.’’

Bec­ciu, the for­mer No. 2 in the Vat­i­can’s sec­re­tariat of state, has been re­port­edly im­pli­cated in a fi­nan­cial scan­dal in­volv­ing the Vat­i­can’s in­vest­ment in a Lon­don real es­tate deal that has lost the Holy See mil­lions of eu­ros in fees paid to mid­dle­men.

The Vat­i­can pros­e­cu­tor has placed sev­eral Vat­i­can of­fi­cials un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as well as the mid­dle­men, but not Bec­ciu. Bec­ciu has de­fended the sound­ness of the orig­i­nal in­vest­ment and de­nied any wrong­do­ing, and it’s not clear whether the scan­dal it­self was be­hind his res­ig­na­tion or pos­si­bly sparked a sep­a­rate line of in­quiry.

But the late-break­ing news of his res­ig­na­tion, the severity of his ap­par­ent sanc­tion, the Vat­i­can’s tight-lipped re­lease and the un­ex­pected down­fall of one of the most pow­er­ful Vat­i­can of­fi­cials all sug­gested a shock­ing new chap­ter in the scan­dal, which has con­vulsed the Vat­i­can for the past year.

The last time a car­di­nal’s rights were re­moved was when Amer­i­can Theodore McCar­rick re­nounced his rights and priv­i­leges as a car­di­nal in July 2018 amid a sex­ual abuse in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He was sub­se­quently de­frocked al­to­gether by Fran­cis last year for sex­u­ally abus­ing adults as well as mi­nors.

Be­fore him, the late Scot­tish Car­di­nal Keith O’Brien in 2015 re­lin­quished the rights and priv­i­leges of be­ing a car­di­nal af­ter uniden­ti­fied priests al­leged sex­ual mis­con­duct. O’Brien was, how­ever, al­lowed to re­tain the car­di­nal’s ti­tle and he died a mem­ber of the Col­lege of Car­di­nals, the elite group of church­men whose main job is to elect a pope.

In the Vat­i­can state­ment, the Holy See iden­ti­fied Bec­ciu as ‘‘His Emi­nence Car­di­nal An­gelo Bec­ciu,’’ mak­ing clear he re­mained a car­di­nal but with­out any rights.

At 72, Bec­ciu would have been able to par­tic­i­pate in a pos­si­ble fu­ture con­clave to elect Fran­cis’ suc­ces­sor. Car­di­nals over age 80 can’t vote. But by re­nounc­ing his rights as a car­di­nal, Bec­ciu has re­lin­quished his rights to take part.

Bec­ciu was the ‘‘sub­sti­tute,’’ or top deputy in the sec­re­tariat of state from 2011-2018, when Fran­cis made him a car­di­nal and moved him into the Vat­i­can’s saint-mak­ing of­fice. He strad­dled two pon­tif­i­cates, hav­ing been named by Pope Bene­dict XVI and en­trusted with essen­tially run­ning the Cu­ria, or Vat­i­can bu­reau­cracy, a po­si­tion that gave him enor­mous in­flu­ence and power.

The fi­nan­cial prob­lems date from 2014, when the Vat­i­can en­tered into a real es­tate ven­ture by in­vest­ing over US$200 mil­lion in a fund run by an Ital­ian busi­ness­man. The deal gave the Holy See 45 per cent of the lux­ury build­ing at 60 Sloane Ave. in Lon­don’s Chelsea neigh­bour­hood.

– AP

Car­di­nal An­gelo Bec­ciu

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