On July 27, a meteoric criminal trial took place in a makeshift courtroom inside the Vatican Museum. More than ten clergymen, and laypeople, went on trial for alleged corruption and massive fraud unfolding within the walls of the holy city. Amongst the indicted individuals is Cardinal Angelo Becciu. This trial is the first-ever in the church’s history, where a cardinal is investigated for financial crimes.
This display of transparency has never been seen before with the Roman Catholic Church. Before the trial, in early July, Pope Francis gave his approval for the Vatican Prosecutor to proceed with the indictment for ten individuals, including Cardinal Becciu. The individuals were accused of extortion, abuse of power, fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering. Becciu, who held office as a senior official in the Vatican administration and a close adviser to the Pope, is joined by two former high-ranking officials of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Unit in the trial.
The indictment listed individuals ranging from low-ranking secretaries to cardinals. The trial includes an Italian woman who worked under Becciu and two brokers from Italy, Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione. The indictment also lists companies located in Switzerland, the United States, and Slovenia.
This trial is a powerful response from Pope Francis, as he works to keep his promise of overhauling the Catholic church and the Vatican’s finances, including the bureaucratic structure. He started with these reforms with stronger penal codes and heavier sanctions against financial and sexual abuse.