Cardinal Angelo Becciu said Wednesday he is taking legal action against an Italian media outlet for publishing “unfounded accusations” against him.
In the Nov. 18 statement, the former senior Vatican official again denied reports that he had used Church funds to benefit family members, or that he had attempted to influence the outcome of a sex abuse trial against Cardinal George Pell in Australia last year.
Becciu, until recently the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, called the allegations “all false” and repeated that he has not been contacted by Vatican judicial authorities.
Since September, Italian newsweekly L’Espresso has published several reports about the former curial official, including claims he is being investigated by the Vatican for misuse of Secretariat of State funds and papal alms while he was serving as the department’s sostituto.
The cardinal said Wednesday he has initiated “civil action” against the newsweekly through a Verona-based law firm “for compensation of the enormous damages suffered.”
“The documentation submitted to the Court proves the absolute groundlessness of the reconstructions published on several occasions by the aforementioned weekly,” he said. Becciu also said whoever is responsible for the “dissemination” of information “will answer for it before judges.”
“The right and duty to inform has nothing to do with what has been written about me, in a crescendo of distortions of reality that have deliberately massacred and deformed my image as a man and a priest,” he argued.
Becciu said any money he may be awarded by the court will be given to charity, claiming that the “outlandish ‘investigations’” against him have also caused “global damage” and harmed the “whole Church.”
He closed his statement by indicating he may also file a criminal suit in the future, in addition to taking civil action, if the “serious and defamatory prevarications of reality” do not stop.
“I will continue to serve the Church and be totally faithful to the Holy Father and His Mission, but I will spend all my remaining energy to ensure that, even for their protection, the truth will be restored…” he said.
The cardinal has also been accused of giving hundreds of thousands of euros to an Italian woman, Cecilia Marogna, as payment for international “security” services she says she carried out for the Secretariat of State from 2018 to 2019.
The Vatican court has asked Italian authorities to extradite Marogna as part of an investigation into how the 39-year-old used the Secretariat of State funds. In October she was released from a Milan jail on the provision she does not leave the city, as she awaits a decision on her appeal of the extradition, the hearing for which will take place Jan. 18, 2021.
The Vatican announced Becciu’s resignation as prefect and from the “related rights of the Cardinalate” in a statement on the evening of Sept. 24.
At a press conference the morning after, Becciu said he had resigned following an audience with Pope Francis, who told him that he no longer trusted him because he had seen reports from Vatican magistrates implicating the Italian cardinal in embezzlement. Becciu denied that he had committed any crimes and said he was ready to explain himself if called on by the Vatican’s judicial authorities.