Some­thing rot­ten in the Vat­i­can

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - PHILIP PUL­LELLA

VAT­I­CAN CITY: Two new books by Ital­ian jour­nal­ists de­pict a Vat­i­can plagued by mis­man­age­ment, greed and cor­rup­tion and where Pope Fran­cis faces stiff re­sis­tance from the old guard to his re­form agenda.

The books draw in part on leaked doc­u­ments, re­viv­ing mem­o­ries of the “Vatileaks” scan­dal of 2012, which pre­ceded the shock res­ig­na­tion of Pope Bene­dict the fol­low­ing year.

The Vat­i­can called the new works “a se­ri­ous be­trayal of trust”, but said Fran­cis was “tran­quil” and de­ter­mined to pur­sue the man­date for re­form given to him by the car­di­nals who elected him in 2013.

“The pope does not need two books to tell him what still needs to be done,” said Vat­i­can spokesman Fa­ther Fed­erico Lom­bardi.

Mer­chants in the Tem­ple by Gian­luigi Nuzzi and Avarice by Emil­iano Fit­ti­paldi were pub­lished in Italy last week.

On Mon­day, the Vat­i­can said the books gen­er­ated “con­fus­ing, par­tial, and ten­den­tious in­ter­pre­ta­tions” in a state­ment that also an­nounced the ar­rest of two mem­bers of a com­mis­sion the pope had set up to study financial re­forms and then ad­vise him.

The ar­rested duo, in­clud­ing a high-rank­ing Span­ish cleric, are sus­pected of leak­ing con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments to the au­thors.

“This was a clumsy at­tempt to dis­tract at­ten­tion from what is told in the book, which is based on ev­i­dence from Vat­i­can doc­u­ments,” Nuzzi said at the launch of his book.

“This pope is try­ing to forge ahead with re­forms and has en­coun­tered a lot of dif­fi­cul­ties and en­trenched re­sis­tance,” he told re­porters.

A high­light of Nuzzi’s book is the tran­script of a record­ing of the pope at a meet­ing in July 2013 – four months af­ter his elec­tion – in which he com­plains to top Vat­i­can of­fi­cials about its murky fi­nances.

“We have to bet­ter clar­ify the fi­nances of the Holy See and make them more trans­par­ent,” he says in the record­ing, which Nuzzi says was made se­cretly by some­one in the room.

“C-l-a-r-i-t-y. That is what’s done in the most hum­ble com­pa­nies and we have to do it, too,” Fran­cis says, adding: “It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say most of our costs are out of con­trol.”

Nuzzi rose to fame in 2012 with the book His Ho­li­ness, which was largely based on leaked doc­u­ments from the but­ler of Pope Bene­dict, Paolo Gabriele, who stole them from the pope’s desk in the “Vatileaks” scan­dal.

Nuzzi also dis­closes that a bur­glary took place in the Vat­i­can on the night of March 29-30 last year in which doc­u­ments be­long­ing to the ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion were stolen from a safe, then re­turned anony­mously.

The book in­cludes pic­tures of the dam­aged safe and doors.

Nuzzi writes of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the fund­ing of causes to de­clare saints in the Ro­man Catholic Church, the pur­ported di­vert­ing of funds in­tended for the poor to plug ad­min­is­tra­tive deficits and the lav­ish life­styles of some car­di­nals.

In Avarice, Fit­ti­paldi writes that some funds from a foundation that runs a Vat­i­can-owned chil­dren’s hospi­tal in Rome were di­verted to pay for the ren­o­va­tion of an apart­ment be­long­ing to a se­nior car­di­nal.

Fit­ti­paldi, a jour­nal­ist for L’Espresso, says the foundation paid € 24 000 (R120 000) for a he­li­copter flight to take the same car­di­nal to south­ern Italy for a char­ity event, ac­cord­ing to ex­cerpts in Rome’s La Repub­blica news­pa­per.

Lom­bardi, the Vat­i­can spokesman, said that while doc­u­ments should not have been leaked, it was the pope who had set up the com­mis­sion to ad­vise him on re­forms in the first place.

The Vat­i­can’s state­ment on Mon­day ac­cused the au­thors of the books of try­ing to reap ad­van­tages from re­ceiv­ing stolen doc­u­ments, which was “a gravely il­le­gal act”. – Reuters

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