High-ranking Vatican official Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu has unexpectedly resigned, the Holy See has announced.
He previously worked as the second-most senior official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. During his time as Substitute for General Affairs he was linked to a luxury property deal in a wealthy area of London.
The $200m (£155m) purchase of the apartment block in Sloane Avenue was bought out of Church money through offshore funds and companies.Five members of staff was said to have been suspended last year following a raid of the offices of the Secretariat last year. Vatican police officers seized documents and computers.Then, in June, Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi was arrested by Vatican police on suspicion of extortion and embezzlement.
The deal has since been the subject of a financial investigation, He denies any wrongdoing and has said he is shocked by the decision.
“The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights connected to the Cardinalate, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu,” a statement from the Holy See said.It gave no further details but such resignations are extremely rare.
Cardinal Angelo Becchiu, 72, was for years in Vatican terms a career diplomat.From 2011 to 2018 he had the powerful role of Substitute for General Affairs in the Secretariat of State, when he met the Pope daily and was one of his most trusted aides.It was Pope Francis who made him cardinal in 2018, when he took up a new role of running the department that looks after sainthood and beatifications.
According to Italian reports, the Pope told him he had no choice but to resign on Thursday, shortly before the announcement was made public.”It’s a blow for me, my family, the people of my country. I’ve accepted out of a spirit of obedience and love of the Church and the Pope,” Italian media quoted the cardinal as saying on Friday morning.