Pope Francis was secretly taped during a phone conversation with one of his cardinals, it emerged Thursday during an ongoing financial trial at the Vatican.
A Vatican court heard the audio recording between Pope Francis and Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a defendant in the trial, in which the cardinal asks the pope to confirm that he authorized payments to help free a kidnapped nun in Africa .
Journalists were not allowed to listen to the recording, but a transcript from the Italian financial police was subsequently published by the Italian news agency Adnkronos. Three defense lawyers at the trial also later confirmed the content of the conversation to Vatican journalists present.
The recording was made by a third party in the room with Cardinal Becciu during the phone conversation, which took place on July 24, 2021. The conversation took place three days before the start of the Vatican trial in which Becciu is charged with embezzlement and abuse of office, and just 10 days after Francis was released from hospital for bowel surgery.
In the phone call, Becciu asks the pope to confirm that he has authorized the payments the cardinal has made to a self-proclaimed security adviser named Cecilia Marogna — who is also accused of embezzlement in the trial — to in turn pay the British company Inkerman to pay. Group, to secure the release of the nun abducted by Islamist militants in Mali in 2017, the transcript said.
According to Cardinal Becciu, then the number two of the Vatican Secretariat of State, 350,000 euros were paid to the British company and 500,000 euros in ransom for the nun.
According to the transcript, during the phone call, the pope said he vaguely remembered and asked the cardinal to put in writing what he would like the pope to confirm.
Under Vatican law, it is not possible for a pope to be called as a witness in a trial.
Cardinal Becciu, who was dismissed by Pope Francis in September 2020 and stripped of most of his rights as a cardinal, has always maintained that all financial transactions he undertook were fully approved by his superiors, including Pope Francis. Becciu and Marogna have both pleaded not guilty to all charges in the trial.
A statement from Becciu’s lawyers sent to CNN on Thursday made no comment on the secretly taped phone call.
Revelations of a secretly taped telephone conversation and what Pope Francis knew about the Vatican’s financial dealings are just the latest in a long and convoluted trial involving the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury building in London, in which 10 defendants are charged. accused of fraud and extortion.