Cardinal: Pope OK’d 1M euros to free nun
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis authorized spending up to 1 million euros to free a Colombian nun kidnapped by al-Qaida-linked militants in Mali, a cardinal testified Thursday, revealing previously secret papal approval to hire a British security firm to find the nun and secure her freedom.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s bombshell testimony could pose serious security implications for the Vatican and Catholic Church, since he provided evidence that the pope was apparently willing to pay ransom to Islamic militants to free a nun, who was eventually let go last year.
Ransom payment are rarely if ever confirmed, precisely to dissuade future kidnappings, and it’s not known how much — if any Vatican money — actually ended up in the hands of the militants.
Prosecutors have accused a Becciu co-defendant of embezzling around half the amount on highend luxury items for herself.
Becciu, who was once one of Francis’ top advisers as the No. 2 in the Vatican secretariat of state, had withheld his testimony from the Vatican tribunal for nearly two years as a matter of state and pontifical secret. But he spoke freely Thursday in his own defense after Francis released him from the confidentiality requirement, providing the most anticipated testimony of the yearlong trial to date.
Becciu is one of 10 people accused in the Vatican’s sprawling financial fraud trial, which originated in the Holy See’s 350 million euro investment in a London property and expanded to cover other alleged crimes.