A secret audio tape of Pope Francis added another twist to a trial concerning financial corruption in the Vatican.
On Thursday, the Vatican tribunal investigating financial fraud allegations heard an audio recording of Francis speaking about payments to free a nun held by Islamist militants, The Associated Press reported.
The recording captured a meeting between the pope and the main defendant in the trial, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, on July 24, 2021. Prosecutor Angelo Diddi said the cardinal and a family associate secretly recorded Francis.
Becciu is facing charges of embezzlement and abuse of office.
In the recording, the cardinal asked Francis to confirm that he had authorized a payment to a British firm identified by co-defendant Cecilia Maronga, a self-styled security analyst, to negotiate the release of Sister Silvia Narvaez, a Columbian nun who was kidnapped in Mali by al-Qaida militants in 2017.
According to Reuters, lawyers in the courtroom said the pope seemed perplexed by the request and repeatedly asked Becciu to send him a written note.
Francis had no idea that he was being recorded at the time, according to the report.
In 2018, Becciu hired Maronga to negotiate the nun’s release, and he sent her nearly $600,000 from the Vatican Secretariat of State. According to police, however, she used much of the money for personal use, including on luxury clothes and visits to a spa.
Maronga, like the cardinal, now faces charges of embezzlement.
The secret audio recording doesn’t show Francis guilty of wrongdoing in this case. However, it does corroborate claims by Becciu and others that the pope was familiar with the expenditures and approved some of them, the Associated Press said.
It also shows he put his trust in the wrong person, as Becciu seemed to act out of concern for his own interests and violated Francis’ trust by secretly recording the pontiff.
This illustrates that all humans, even those who are in the service of God, are fallible creatures and prone to error.
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