Ricca and Chaouqui, Two Enemies in the House
He the prelate of the IOR, she a commissioner for the reorganization of the Vatican administration. Two appointments desired and decided by Pope Francis. Which however are the living negation of his program of housecleaning and reform
by Sandro Magister
ROME, August 26, 2013 – More than two months have passed since the unhappy appointment of Monsignor Battista Ricca as “prelate” of the Institute for Works of Religion and more than a month since that, no less unhappy, of Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui (see photo) as a member of the commission for the reorganization of the financial-administrative Vatican offices.
Both of these appointments were made by Pope Francis, the first through his own highly personal decision.
And for both of them, immediately afterward, there came to light grave counter-indications about which the pope was initially in the dark.
And yet, in late August, no correction of course appears to be in sight.
With regard to the “prelate” of the Vatican bank, after the appointment Pope Francis was soon informed by several trusted persons about the scandalous past of this figure and about the cover-up that he had enjoyed and still enjoys at the Vatican. And to these persons he expressed his gratitude.
But on the return flight from the voyage to Brazil, replying to a journalist, pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio avoided taking a clear position on the case of Monsignor Ricca.
The words of the pope that the media all over the world picked up with the greatest emphasis – in an outpouring of favorable comments on his “openness” to homosexuals – were interpreted as a suspension of judgment: “If a person is gay and is seeking the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him?”
A few days after his return to Rome, Pope Francis was more clear. He had the secretariat of state informed that Monsignor Ricca “will remain in his position.”
And thus with him there will remain intact the glaring contradiction between the work of housecleaning and reorganization of the Roman curia that Pope Francis has repeatedly said he wants and the “prelate” of his appointment in whom he continues to place his trust, a perfect emblem precisely of those scandalous behaviors and of those “lobbies” of power which should be swept away.
With respect to that of Monsignor Ricca, the case of Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui is different. The Vatican secretariat of state had accurate information about her a number of months before her appointment, last July 18, as a member of the commission for the reorganization of the financial-administrative offices of the Holy See, with the ability to access all of the most confidential documents.
But in creating this commission and in appointing its eight members, Pope Francis acted autonomously. The secretariat of state was not involved in it, and received the news only after the fact.
The secretariat of state had been put on early alert in the spring of 2012 by some articles that appeared in the most widely read progressive Italian newspaper, “La Repubblica.”
In them it was maintained that Paolo Gabriele, the butler of Benedict XVI arrested and sentenced for stealing from the pope a an enormous number of confidential documents that were later given to the press, was not the only one in the curia to have acted in that way, but like him and after him there were others still in action, including a woman.
The “revelations” relative to this affair did not give the names of the protagonists. Including the latest and most spectacular anonymous interview, published in “la Repubblica” on March 7, 2013, a few days before the conclave that elected pope Bergoglio.
The interviewee, however, was a person so talkative as to swear up and down that she was the informant for the articles in “la Repubblica”: Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, 32, of a Moroccan father and Calabrian mother, residing in Rome, married, employed in public relations from 2007 to 2009 in the international law offices of Pavia & Ansaldo, then from 2010 in the offices of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and finally since 2013 in the offices of Ernst & Young, with a vast network of real or boasted relationships with journalists, politicians, businessmen, prelates, cardinals.
When, during those days of conclave, the identity of the anonymous informer of “la Repubblica” also came to the attention of the substitute secretary of state, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, he protested to the newspaper. Which in effect stopped publishing any more articles visibly traceable to the Chaouqui “source.”
On July 18, therefore, the news of the appointment by the pope of this young “PR” specialist to the commission for the reorganization of the Vatican administration left dumfounded those who were aware of the background.
But even for those who may have been in the dark it would have been very easy to get an idea of this character. It was enough to open her Twitter page, look at her profile, scroll through the messages.
One would have gathered from this, among other things, that Francesca Chaouqui has a direct connection with Gianluigi Nuzzi, the journalist who received and published the documents stolen from Benedict XVI by his unfaithful butler, and is an assiduous informer of the website dagospia.com, the source most widely followed in Italy for gossip and slander on the Vatican.
As a precaution, on July 23 Francesca Chaouqui removed her photo (the one reproduced above) and on August 10 deactivated her Twitter page. But too late, and in an incomplete form.
Supposing, then, that Francesco did not personally know Francesca Chaouqui, who convinced the pope to appoint her to a role of such high responsibility?
The most likely hypothesis leads back to Monsignor Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the prefecture for the economic affairs of the Holy See and since July 18 also secretary and factotum of the newly created commission of which Francesca Chaouqui is a member.
Monsignor Vallejo Balda, 52, a Spaniard and a member of the priestly branch of Opus Dei, the Fraternity of the Holy Cross, after having given proof of administrative capacities in the diocese of Astorga, distinguished himself by successfully organizing the World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011, alongside Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela. And the latter facilitated, that same year, the promotion to Rome in the position of second-in-command of the prefecture for the economic affairs of the Holy See.
Here Vallejo Balda in fact leapfrogged over his direct superior, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, who – among other things – bears the disadvantage of being part of the declining team of cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone.
It therefore comes as no surprise that, elected pope, Bergoglio should have quickly identified in the dynamic Spanish monsignor one of the men to be trusted for the administrative reorganization of the curia.
And the proof is in the dominant role that the papal chirograph instituting the commission assigns to Monsignor Vallejo Balda: not only that of its secretary, but also that of “coordinator who has powers of delegation and acts in the name and on behalf of the commission in the collection of documents, data, and information necessary to the performance of its institutional functions.”
One can even infer that the pope has also entrusted to Vallejo Balda the task of selecting and recruiting the members of the commission. This can be deduced from the letter with which he announced the appointment to each of them: from the way in which he annotated their resumes, referring (in rather jumbled Italian) to his personal meetings with one or the other.
It states there for example with regard to the former foreign minister of Singapore, George Yeo:
“He is a courteous and attentive man, but has a strong intellectual style, with very wide reading and a deep understanding of the changing tectonic plates of history. He is, or was when I spoke to him about this at length a couple of times, a serious and conscientious Catholic, with many fascinating intuitions on Catholicism with Chinese characteristics.”
And of Francesca Chaouqui:
“Years of experience in the sector of consulting with the management of business communication and governance of external and institutional relations, authoritative leadership based on strong relational and communicative endowments, and a high capacity for harnessing contacts for business purposes, guided by very strong ethical and moral principles and values.”
These resumes – with private e-mail addresses and telephone numbers – were in one of the three attachments to the confidential e-mail with which on July 18 Monsignor Vallejo Balda pre-announced to the other seven members of the commission the publication, on the following day, of the chirograph of the pope with their appointment.
The other two attachments were the text of the papal chirograph and the supplement to the chirograph itself, also signed by Pope Francis, with the operating procedures for the commission. And with the statement:
“Not for publication and not for distribution outside of the commission.”
The first of these two documents was in effect made public the following day. The second no. But it can be read on this page of http://www.chiesa:
In the e-mail of July 18, sent at 9:41 in the morning, Monsignor Vallejo Balda asked the recipients to preserve confidentiality.
But immediately afterward, that same morning, Francesca Chaouqui had already seen fit to violate the instruction, forwarding the e-mail from Vallejo Balda with the three attachments to one of her contact lists.
It is said that Francesca Chaouqui belongs to Opus Dei, on a par with Monsignor Vallejo Balda. But it is not true.
It is certain, however, that she frequents Roman residences of Opus, including the one inhabited by the numerary Joaquín Navarro-Valls, the unforgotten spokesman of John Paul II.
The previous articles from http://www.chiesa on the cases of Monsignor Ricca and of Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui:
> Double Storm for the IOR (3.7.2013)
On Monsignor Vallejo Balda, the laudatory profile sketched by José Manuel Vidal on “Religión Digital”:
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.