Prior to the start of his trial on financial malfeasance charges, Cardinal Angelo Becciu tried to get Pope Francis to confirm that he had authorized the financial transactions that led to Becciu’s prosecution.
The pope refused.
“I regret to inform you that I cannot comply with your request,” the pope wrote back.
The correspondence between the two, which took place in July 2021, was read and displayed in a Vatican court March 9 — an unexpected turn of events coming during the 50th hearing of the trial.
Promoter of Justice Alessandro Diddi obtained the three letters directly from the “sovereign authority,” that is, Pope Francis himself.
In one letter, dated July 20, 2021, Becciu asked the pope to confirm that he had given the go-ahead for an investment by the Secretariat of State in a luxury property in London in 2013. Not only that, Becciu also asked the pope to acknowledge that he had personally approved the hiring of an intermediary, Cecilia Marogna, to help secure the release of Sister Cecilia Narvaez, the Colombian nun kidnapped in Mali in 2017 and freed in 2021.
In a style that seems more legalistic than Pope Francis’ usual writing, the pope wrote back on July 21 to say that Becciu’s letter surprised him. Instead of granting the confirmation that Becciu sought, the pope emphasized that the proposal for the purchase of the property in London “immediately seemed strange to me.” For that reason, he wrote, “I suggested that a prior consultation be carried out with the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and with Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, prefect of the SPE, for the insights of their respective competences.”
The phone call and new letter
On July 24, Cardinal Becciu telephoned Pope Francis and secretly recorded their conversation. In the phone call, Becciu complained that the pope’s letter of July 21 was like a verdict issued against him. He asked for it to be annulled, telling the pope that the tone of his letter was “entirely juridical” rather than that of a spiritual father.
Becciu asked the pope if he remembered that he gave him “the authorization to free the nun” and then told the pope that it would be enough for him if the pope said he authorized him to carry out particular operations. The pope responded by asking to send in writing “explanations and what he would like me to write.”
Becciu wrote to the pope again on July 24. In that letter, he thanked the pope for the phone call and said he he heard Francis “like a true father willing to listen to the pain of a son.”
Enclosed with the letter were two declarations that he asked the pope to sign, one regarding the London property deal and the other concerning the nun’s release.
Concerning the London property, Becciu appealed to the pope to affirm that he had considered “the proposal interesting.”
On July 26, Pope Francis responded again. He wrote that he had not clarified his “negative position” on the declarations that the cardinal wanted him to sign.
“Evidently and surprisingly, you misunderstood me,” Francis wrote.
“I regret to inform you,” he added, “that I cannot comply with your request to formally declare ‘nothing’ and therefore to ‘disregard’ the letter I had written to you.”
Andrea Gagliarducci is an Italian journalist for Catholic News Agency and Vatican analyst for ACI Stampa. He is a contributor to the National Catholic Register.