On Thursday, a court in a Vatican corruption trial heard a secretly recorded phone call between the main defendant in the case, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 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 intestinal surgery, the court said.
Reporters were asked to leave the room as the tape played, but lawyers listening in said Becciu asked the pope to confirm the pontiff had authorized a payment to help free a nun who had been kidnapped in Africa.
Lawyers said that, upon calling, the pope appeared puzzled and confused as to why Becciu was calling, and that the pontiff had repeatedly asked the cardinal to send him a written note of what he wanted.
In 2018 Becciu, then the third most powerful person in the Vatican, hired co-defendant Cecilia Marogna, a self-styled security analyst, to free a Colombian nun who had been kidnapped in Mali by a group linked to al Qaeda.
Marogna, 44, received 575,000 euros from the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s most important department, from 2018 to 2019, when Becciu worked there. The money was sent to a company she set up in Slovenia and she received part of it in cash, the court said.
Police found that Marogna spent much of the money on personal use, including luxury brand clothing and spa visits.
She is accused of embezzlement and Becciu is accused of embezzlement, corruption and abuse of power. They, like the other eight defendants, denied any wrongdoing.
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