On Tuesday a preliminary hearing of the five individuals accused of leaking and disseminating confidential financial documents was held in the Vatican, with the next hearing set to begin Nov. 30. The defendants are Spanish Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, Italian PR woman Francesca Chaouqui, Nicola Maio (Vallejo’s secretary), and journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi. The Nov. 24 preliminary hearing for what has been dubbed by media as “Vatileaks 2.0” began at 10:30 a.m. and lasted just over an hour. On Nov. 21 the Vatican announced that it would officially be pressing charges against the five for their role in obtaining, leaking and publishing private information and documents regarding Holy See finances. Msgr. Vallejo, Chaouqui and Maio have been accused of working together to form “an organized criminal association” with the intention of “disclosing information and documents concerning the fundamental interests of the Holy See and the (Vatican City) State.” On Nov. 2 Msgr. Vallejo and Chaouqui were arrested in connection with the leaks, and are believed to have passed the documents on to Nuzzi and Fittipaldi, who published separate books on the information earlier this month. Both are former members of the Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA). The commission was established by the Pope July 18, 2013, as part of his plan to reform the Vatican’s finances. It was dissolved after completing its mandate. For their part, Nuzzi and Fittipaldi have been charged with illegally procuring and subsequently releasing the private information and documents. Specifically, they are accused of “urging and exerting pressure, particularly on Msgr. Vallejo,” to obtain the private documents and then publish books on the content, which were released earlier this month. The leaking of documents was officially criminalized by the Vatican in 2013, when Nuzzi published a book containing confidential information given to him by Pope Benedict XVI’s butler in what came to be known as the “Vatileaks” scandal. All defendants were present inside the courtroom for the Nov. 24 hearing and with lawyers “dall’ufficio,” referring to legal representation given to those who don’t already have it. The court consisted of Giuseppe Della Torre, President of the Vatican tribunal; Judges Piero Antonio Bonne and Paolo Papanti-Pelletier, as well as Alternate judge Venerando Marano. The prosecution, the Office of the Promoter of Justice, was represented by Promoter of Justice Gian Piero Milano, and Adjutant-promoter Roberto Zannotti. After the accusations were read aloud, Della Torre announced that Nuzzi and Vallejo had each requested an additional, hand-picked lawyer, and that the request would be forwarded to President of the Court of Appeals. According to Nuzzi’s twitter account, his request to be represented by his usual lawyer has already been denied. Two objections were then raised in the court, one by Vallejo’s lawyer that the time needed to prepare evidence for the defense was insufficient. Fittipaldi himself asked to make a statement in which he protested the charges brought against him, saying they violated his freedom as a journalist to publish news. His lawyer then requested that his indictment be reconsidered for lacking a clear statement on his alleged crimes. Zannotti responded immediately to the second objection by saying that the intention of the charge is not to violate Fittipaldi’s freedom as a journalist, but rather to hold him accountable for the means in which he obtained the documents and information, which was stated in his indictment. After a 45 minute deliberation of the objections the court reconvened, and them both. They announced that the next hearing will take place Monday, Nov. 30, at 9:30 a.m., with several other hearings set to take place throughout the week. It was noted that all hearings will take place in the morning, and that afternoon sessions would be called only if needed. During Monday’s hearing the defendants will give their testimonies, beginning with Msgr. Vallejo and Chaouqui. The testimonies of Maio, Nuzzi and Fittipaldi will be given later. Journalists present inside the courtroom reported that that both Nuzzi and Fittipaldi seemed to be more at ease during today’s, whereas Vallejo, Maio and Chaouqui were described as being “agitated” and “tense,” particularly the latter two.
Catholic News Agency was founded in 2004, in response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization." It is an apostolate of EWTN News.