In a very brief hearing on Tuesday, the president of the Vatican tribunal said that a landmark financial trial had yet to really get started.
“We are in an open construction site,” Giuseppe Pignatone told the court on Dec. 14, indicating that he hoped to start hearing witness testimony in February, with a schedule that will likely include four audiences per month.
The hearing, which lasted only 10 minutes, was the latest in the Vatican’s historic trial to prosecute people — including Cardinal Angelo Becciu — connected to the Secretariat of State’s investment in a London property for 350 million euros ($396 million).
The trial kicked off in July with 10 defendants but has been mired in procedural problems.
In October, the court ruled that the office of the prosecutor — called the Promoter of Justice — needed to re-do part of the investigation into several of the defendants.
Court president Pignatone said on Tuesday that prosecutors must decide by Jan. 20, 2022, whether to re-indict those four suspects or dismiss them.
Meanwhile, the trial has proceeded with six defendants, including Becciu, the highest-ranking cleric to be tried by the tribunal of Vatican City State in recent history.
The next hearing is set for Jan. 25, 2022.
Pignatone indicated that in February he would like to re-join all defendants into a single trial, as intended last summer before the order to do over some interrogations.
He also ordered prosecutors to provide to the defense full transcripts of the interrogations of all 10 people originally charged, plus those by key witness Msgr. Alberto Perlasca.
Video recordings of interviews with Perlasca, who was originally a suspect but has never been charged, are at the center of complaints by defense attorneys, who argued first that they were not available to them to review and later that sections had been edited out.
In a Dec. 14 statement, attorneys for Becciu said they were still waiting for the judges’ answer to these objections. They added that “when and if the trial addresses the matter, we will finally be able to demonstrate the cardinal’s absolute innocence of all charges and his total institutional correctness.”
Pignatone said that the prosecutors must provide the full transcripts by Jan. 10, 2022.
Promoter of Justice Alessandro Diddi did not speak in court on Tuesday, but his office provided a memorandum re-stating that “all the documents that are sources of evidence had been filed and can be found in the court documents,” but it would comply with the new order to provide transcripts.
Perlasca’s tapes were leaked to an Italian newspaper earlier this month, inciting a strongly worded statement from the trial’s 18 defense lawyers, who condemned the publication of the video recordings for creating a “parallel trial ... in defiance of the law.”
Corriere della Sera published more than 14 minutes of excerpts of the videos of Perlasca’s depositions, in which he indicated that Pope Francis authorized the Secretariat of State to negotiate with businessman Gianluigi Torzi, who brokered the final stage of the London deal and is one of the trial’s defendants.