Cardinal Angelo Beccu’s unexpected revelation could have serious consequences for the security of the Vatican and the Catholic Church
Pope Francis has allowed up to 1m euros to be spent on the release of a Colombian nun kidnapped by al Qaeda-linked extremists in Mali. The cardinal announced this yesterday, revealing the secret papal approval so far to hire a British security company to find the nun and help save her, the Associated Press reported.
Cardinal Angelo Beccu’s unexpected revelation could have serious consequences for the security of the Vatican and the Catholic Church, as he provided evidence that the pope was apparently willing to pay a ransom to Islamist extremists for the release of a nun who was eventually released last year. .
Redemption payments are rarely or never confirmed, precisely to dissuade future kidnappers, and it is not known exactly how much money the Vatican has reached extremists.
Bechu was one of the pope’s top advisers and a second-ranking clergyman in the Vatican’s secretariat of state. Prosecutors have accused a woman who is co-accused with him of using about half of the amount to acquire luxury items.
The cardinal did not testify before the Vatican tribunal for nearly two years for reasons of state and papal secrecy, but yesterday he spoke freely in his defense. This came after the pope released him from the requirement of confidentiality and Bechu gave the long-awaited testimony so far in the one-year trial.
Bechu is one of 10 defendants in a financial fraud case in the Vatican. It began with an investment of 350m euros in a luxury London property, but has gradually expanded to include other criminal acts. Prosecutors have accused defendants of a number of crimes involving the alleged draining of millions of euros from the Holy See in the form of fees, commissions and bad investments.
Bechu, who is the only cardinal in the dock, is accused of embezzlement, abuse of office and training of witnesses. Yesterday, he testified on charges of his links to a self-proclaimed Italian intelligence specialist, Cecilia Maronia, who is also accused of embezzlement.
Maronia had told Italian media that she had helped free Catholic hostages in Africa on behalf of the Holy See. Vatican prosecutors accuse her of embezzling half a million euros, citing bank statements from her Slovenian holding company. They show that 9 bank transfers were made from the Vatican for unspecified humanitarian purposes and payments from its account for luxury women’s goods and expensive hotels.
Bechu testified that he sought help from Maronia as an external consultant after the abduction in February 2017 of Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez in Mali. She was abducted by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which financed its subversive activities by kidnapping Western citizens. While the nun was in captivity, she was periodically shown in videos asking the Vatican for help.
The cardinal also said that Maronia advised him to involve the British security company Inkerman to ensure the release of the Colombian nun.
Sister Narvaez was released in October 2021 after more than five years in captivity. Shortly afterwards, she met with the pope at the Vatican.