Vatican City | One of the Vatican’s most influential cardinals, the Italian Angelo Becciu, implicated in a troubled real estate affair, resigned from his post in the government of the Holy See, saying on Friday he had been pushed out.
“The Holy Father has accepted the renunciation of his office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and of his rights related to the cardinalate presented by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu”, announced Thursday evening the Holy See in a laconic statement who provided no explanation.
The cardinal said he was “upset” and innocent, claiming to have been pushed by the Pope towards the exit. “It’s a blow to me, my family, the people of my country. Out of a spirit of obedience and out of love for the Church and for the Pope, I accepted his request to dismiss me from my functions ”, he declared, quoted on Friday by the daily“ Il Messaggero ”.
“I am innocent and I will prove it. I ask the Holy Father to allow me to defend myself, ”he added.
According to “Il Messaggero”, the Pope told him: “I have always loved you very much, I regret it but I cannot help it.”
After a career as a nuncio (ambassador), the Italian prelate had served for seven years as a substitute for the Secretariat of State, the equivalent of a Minister of the Interior, in constant contact with Pope Benedict XVI and then the Pope. Francois.
Just created a cardinal in the summer of 2018 by Pope Francis, he was head of the administration of the Holy See responsible for investigating and deciding on beatifications and canonizations.
His resignation at 72, premature and exceptional in the practice of the Church, has all the features of a sanction.
In 2015, Pope Francis accepted the waiver of cardinal prerogatives from Bishop Keith O’Brien, a former Archbishop of Edinburgh who had resigned two years earlier after being the subject of complaints from young priests for “inappropriate acts” in the 1980s. The prelate nevertheless retained his title of cardinal until his death in March 2018.
The short Vatican press release states that if Angelo Becciu retains his cardinalate, he loses all the rights attached to this function, in particular the possibility of electing a new pope during a conclave or of advising the current sovereign pontiff.
The cardinal’s name has been mentioned many times in the context of an explosive investigation, launched a year ago, into opaque financial arrangements to buy a building in the chic Chelsea district of London.
The procurement process began in 2014 when Bishop Becciu was still at the Secretariat of State, the central administration of the Holy See deciding for this investment. At the beginning of the year, he had defended the merits of this real estate purchase in interviews.
As part of this investigation, five employees of the Secretariat of State are in particular in the crosshairs of the Vatican justice. An Italian businessman was arrested last June on suspicion of extortion against the Holy See in connection with the purchase of the London building, before being provisionally released.
According to revelations from the Italian magazine “L’Espresso” to be published on Sunday, the cardinal would have directed on several occasions hundreds of thousands of euros from the Italian episcopate and the Holy See to a cooperative in Sardinia managed by his brother, s ‘occupant of social integration under the aegis of the Sardinian diocese of the cardinal.
The investigation, partially unveiled on Friday in the Italian daily “la Repubblica” and which could have precipitated the sudden fall of the cardinal on Thursday evening, affirms that the prelate also favored during his career the activities of two other brothers. Funds were reinvested by the family in financial activities, including offshore funds, according to the same source.