Pope Francis was secretly recorded during a phone call with one of his former top cardinals discussing the Holy See’s payments to free a nun held hostage by al-Qaeda-linked militants in northern Africa.
In a shocking legal move, the recorded phone call between Pope Francis and Cardinal Angelo Becciu — one of 10 defendants in an ongoing embezzlement trial — was played before the Vatican court.
In the call, Becciu can be heard asking the Pope to confirm that he had authorized payments to free the nun, who was kidnapped in 2017. She was eventually released last year and met with the pope.
Journalists were asked to leave the courtroom before the tape was played because the recording had not yet been formally admitted into evidence, but a transcript from the Italian Financial Police was published by Italian news agency Adnkronos, CNN reported.
The recording was made on July 24, 2021 — just three days before Becciu was to be put on trial for alleged embezzlement and abuse of office — and 10 days after Pope Francis had been released from the hospital in Rome for intestinal surgery, according to the outlet.
Beccui can be heard asking the Pope to confirm that he had authorized payments to self-described security consultant Cecilia Marogna, who has also been named as a defendant in the trial. Marogna was to then pay the British firm, Inkerman Group, to free the nun.
Beccui said that the payments were $363,706 USD to Inkerman Group and $519,518 USD in ransom for the nun.
The Pope told the Cardinal that he vaguely remembered the payments, but asked him to put his confirmation request in writing.
There is no Vatican law that requires the Pope to testify at a trial, according to CNN.
Becciu, the Holy See’s former secretariat of state, was forced to resign on Sept. 24. He is suspected of funneling Vatican money to businesses and charities headed by his three brothers.
He also allegedly oversaw a multimillion-dollar investment in luxury property in London that is at the center of the trial. Prosecutors have accused defendants of defrauding the Holy See and of then extorting 15 million euros from the Vatican to acquire control of the property. The Vatican lost $100 million euros on the property transaction alone.
Becciu has maintained that all of his financial transactions were stamped for approval by his superiors. He, Marogna and all other defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors have accused Italian brokers and other Vatican officials of a number of financial crimes, including fraud, embezzlement, corruption and abuse of office
In the London case, they accuse the defendants of defrauding the Holy See and of then extorting 15 million euros from the Vatican to acquire control of the property.
With Post Wires