Written by Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A court in a Vatican corruption trial on Thursday heard a secretly recorded phone call between the main accused, Cardinal Angelo Becchio, and Pope Francis.
The recording was made without the Pope’s knowledge by someone in a room with Becciu in July 2021, shortly before the trial began and while the Pope was still recovering from major bowel surgery, the court was informed.
Reporters were asked to leave the room while the tape was being played, but lawyers who overheard said Becchio had asked the Pope to confirm that the Pope had authorized a payment to help free a nun who had been kidnapped in Africa.
In the call, the lawyers said, the pope appeared disoriented and confused by Becchio’s call and that the pope repeatedly asked the cardinal to send him a written note of what he wanted.
In 2018, Besio, the third most powerful person in the Vatican, hired co-defendant Cecilia Marogna, a self-proclaimed security analyst, to free a Colombian nun who had been kidnapped by an al Qaeda-linked group in Mali.
Marogna, 44, received 575,000 euros ($598,630) from the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s most important department, in 2018 to 2019 when Pescio worked there. The money was sent to a company she set up in Slovenia that got part of it in cash, the court was told.
Police discovered that Marogna had spent a lot of money for personal use, including luxury brand clothes and visits to spas.
She is accused of embezzlement and Becciu is changed for embezzlement, corruption and abuse of office. They, like the other eight defendants, have denied any wrongdoing.
The trial’s chief prosecutor, Alessandro Didi, told reporters Thursday that he had begun a new touch in his investigation, in which Becchio is suspected of criminal conspiracy. He said he submitted the details to the court.
Bequio’s lawyers said in a statement that they are not aware of any new charges. The statement did not comment on the secretly recorded phone call.
A year before the trial began, Francis Becchio was expelled on suspicion of nepotism. Becciu denies doing anything to help his family financially.
On Thursday, Becchio faced the main accused, his former chief aide Monsignor Alberto Perlasca. He told the court how he was ordered to make payments he considered unusual.
He said he had sent €100,000 to a charity in Sardinia, not knowing at the time that it was related to the Becchio family.
Becciu said the charity helped create jobs in an impoverished area.
The trial is about the purchase of a building in London by the Foreign Office. Among the ten defendants are former Vatican employees and Italian mediators, who prosecutors say have blackmailed the Vatican.
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(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Jonathan Otis)