Roma Locuta Est

What does Cardinal Becciu know about Francis?

Steven O’ReillyNov 28November 27, 2022 (Steven O’Reilly) – In this article Roma Locuta Est revisits some of the oddities and incongruities surrounding the case of Cardinal Becciu. Readers may recall that Cardinal Becciu is on trial before a Vatican tribunal with regard to accusations against him and others involving financial corruption, including “fraud and money laundering” (see here).This past week there was a startling revelation that Cardinal Becciu had taped a phone conversation between himself and Pope Francis in July of 2021. In that call, Becciu asked Pope Francis to confirm he had approved a ransom payment to a group of terrorists in order to free a nun back in 2017.  Per the reporting in article on Union of Catholic Asia News:”Did you or not give me the authorisation to start the operations to free the nun?” Becciu asks in the call, according to the transcript published by Italian media.”Did you or not give me the authorisation to start the operations to free the nun?” Becciu asks in the call, according to the transcript published by Italian media.”For the ransom we had fixed 500,000, we said no more because it seemed immoral to give more money… that would go into the pockets of the terrorists… I think I had informed you about all this… do you remember?”According to the transcript, the pope said he “vaguely” remembered but asked Becciu to put his request in writing.The call was recorded in Becciu’s apartment by one of his relatives, on a speakerphone, the court heard.The nun, who had been taken hostage in 2017 by al-Qaeda-linked jihadists, was freed in Mali in October 2021.(Source: Cardinal on trial secretly taped call with Pope Francis)That any Cardinal would surreptitiously record a discussion with a pope is outrageous. It is odd that the prosecution even introduced the tape as evidence, as the transcript arguably helps Becciu’s case, in as much as it seems to suggest Francis may have approved of one of the expenditures apparently at issue in the case.Certainly, the prosecution would not have played the tape if it were thought the conversation might damage Pope Francis in any way. This conversation was recorded by Becciu in 2021, a year after he had already been disciplined by Francis, but before his trial began. While the conversation does seem to hurt either Francis or Becciu, it does not appear to exculpate Becciu either.In light of some of the oddities and incongruities surrounding the relationship between Pope Francis and Cardinal Becciu; the question that comes to our minds at Roma Locuta Est is, if Becciu is the sort of man who would secretly tape a Roman Pontiff for his own interest, has he done any thing similar before?So, what let us examine some of the oddities and incongruities as we see them.Francis disciplines BecciuWhile the Cardinal’s guilt or innocence has yet to be adjudicated with regard to the London real estate deal, it was only when the controversy surround it became public and only after international authorities began to act upon it that Pope Francis moved to punish Becciu (see herehere, and here). Only then did Francis remove Becciu from any office he held in the Church, as well as taking away most if not all the benefits, privileges and duties of being a Cardinal – essentially leaving Becciu a Cardinal in name only. Thus, the appearance at least is that the hand of Francis was forced by others. Regardless, given that the above punishment inflicted by Francis upon Becciu occurred before the start of the trial, it seems obvious that at least Pope Francis was convinced, rightly or wrongly, of Becciu’s guilt in 2020.Yet, according to Forbes, five years before this disciplinary action — i.e., circa 2016 — Francis had been previously given a dossier accusing Becciu of financial corruption, involving “incontrovertible” proof of wrongdoing (see Catholic World Report, Pope Francis and the Cardinal Becciu affair). However, Forbes’ source said Francis “closed the file; that was the end of it.”If the above is indeed the case, why did Pope Francis allow Becciu to remain in office another four years into 2020?  Furthermore, why did Francis not remove Becciu from the Cardinalate altogether in 2020, instead of allowing him to retain his title, even in name only?As odd as all that is, there is something even more bizarre. Recall, by 2021, Francis had been both aware of the accusations against Becciu involving the London real estate deal for about a year, and of the 2016 dossier with “incontrovertible” evidence regarding other potential corruption accusations against Becciu, as reported by Forbes.  Yet, even having (1) disciplined Becciu for his alleged part in the London deal, (2) and having knowledge of other “incontrovertible proofs” from the 2016 dossier, and (3) with the impending trial date approaching; Francis met privately with Becciu at the latter’s apartment, on Holy Thursday of all evenings! (see Catholic News Agency: Report: Pope Francis celebrates Holy Thursday Mass with Cardinal Becciu).Now, why would a Pope, on Holy Thursday of all days be meeting in the private apartment of an essentially ‘indicted’ man, a former member of the Curia who he had disciplined upon the assumption of his guilt? Weren’t there more official “pope” things Francis could attend to on Holy Thursday?  Very odd. What happened on that night in Becciu’s private apartment? Did they discuss the case?  Did they discuss what Becciu might conceivably say or not say publicly or at trial about Francis?  Certainly, the “optics” of having such a meeting were not good.Francis dangles restoration before Becciu…why?However, the Pope’s incongruous behavior toward Cardinal Becciu does not end there.  Readers may recall the news in August 2022 when it appeared that Pope Francis was in some sense, seemed to be rehabilitating Cardinal Becciu (see our article recounting the event, The Rehabilitation of Cardinal Becciu: what’s up with that?). For example, at the time, according to Crux, Cardinal Becciu told a group in August 2022 before an approaching consistory that: “On Saturday, the pope phoned me to tell me that I will be reinstated in my cardinal duties and to ask me to participate in a meeting with all the cardinals that will be held in the coming days in Rome” (See Crux, Cardinal at center of Vatican trial claims he has been ‘reinstated’ by Pope).In the same Crux article, Cardinal Becciu’s lawyer confirmed the invitation noting also that attendance at consistories is a prerogative of a cardinal, and that Francis had “frozen” these prerogatives with regard to Cardinal Becciu back in September of 2020. Yet, even so, Becciu was “summoned” to the consistory.  According to a separate Crux article (emphasis added):“Speaking on background, a Vatican source has said Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s apparent invitation to participate in a high-profile meeting of cardinals next week represents a personal gesture on the part of Pope Francis, but that it does not necessarily mean Becciu’s rights as a cardinal, stripped by the pope two years ago, are being restored.”(Source:  Crux, Invite for accused cardinal doesn’t necessarily imply rehabilitation, Vatican source says)The Vatican statement that this “does not necessarily mean” Becciu’s rights are being restored is effectively meaningless because this line can as easily be interpreted to allow that his rights might be restored! This news in August certainly had the appearance of a pardon being dangled before Becciu, and even of a back and forth negotiation being conducted in the public between the two parties. Allow him some taste of his former privileges; of what he might earn back? But based on what expectations?  Is this where Becciu’s recording, or recordings(?) of Francis enters the discussion?Does Becciu hold other tapes? Other evidence that is potentially damaging to Pope Francis?Did Francis know in August 2022 that Becciu had recorded their July 2021 call on the ransoming of the nun? Surely, Francis would have been informed at some earlier date that the prosecutors were in possession of such a tape. However, that in itself would not provide an adequate explanation as to why Francis seemed to tease the possibility of a full restoration of Cardinal Becciu back in August. After all, while the recording we know of so far does not convict Becciu, it does not exculpate him.Still, this back and forth between Becciu and Francis, i.e., the Holy Thursday meeting, the teasing of a restoration, has the appearance of a negotiation playing out in public before our eyes. So, if the recording that has thus far been revealed is not damaging to Francis, are there possibly other recordings, or is there other information in Becciu’s possession which would explain the Pope’s strange behavior in the Becciu case?Imagine if an American president met privately with a prominent, criminally indicted, former member of his Administration.  Then, imagine further, if this president were to publicly dangle the official’s reinstatement to office before criminal proceedings began, this would certainly give — at least — the appearance of collusion or obstruction of justice.  Then, imagine, shortly thereafter, the criminally indicted official is found out to have a recording of at least one of his discussions with the president.Under such a scenario, what would average citizens think?  What inferences might they reasonably draw?  Perhaps that the President was dangling a pardon to entice the ‘indicted’ official not to release any other recording or information damaging to the President and his presidency?  Certainly, such a theory has explanatory power.I am not saying there is something Becciu knows about Francis that is damaging, only that the patterns of actions and inaction in this relationship certainly give rise to a reasonable suspicion there is much more going on here below the surface than meets the eye. In particular, Francis appears to tease Becciu’s restoration to the Cardinalate before the outcome of a trial without any apparent factual basis, and then we find out Becciu has taped at least one conversation with the Pope! Hmmm.  Is that not strange? Is in unreasonable for the outside observer to consider the inference Becciu might know something, perhaps something damaging to Francis and or his papacy, that Francis does not want to become public knowledge?   Is it reasonable to wonder whether this explains the seeming dangling of a full restoration to the cardinalate before Becciu?However, if such a hypothesis is to be entertained, it may be necessary to go back further in time to find a complete theory. That is, in addition to the more recent incongruities, we need a sufficient explanation for older ones, such as why Francis did not act upon the reported dossier on Becciu in 2016, which supposedly contained “incontrovertible” evidence against Becciu. If there was such a dossier, why did Francis not act against Becciu at that time?  Did Francis have fears even earlier in his pontificate that Becciu might possess damaging information against Francis and his papacy — information which prevented Francis from taking action against him at that time?Cardinal Bergoglio’s Financial TransactionsWhile more investigation and inquiry is required here, there is evidence that money flowed from Argentina to the Vatican, and under questionable circumstances.Henry Sire, in his book The Dictator Pope, writes (emphasis added):“As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio was ex officio chancellor of the Pontifical  Catholic University of Argentina, which had a rich endowment of $200 million. For no clear reason, a large part of this money was transferred to the Vatican Bank. The transaction recalls a scandal years previously when Bergoglio had been auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires and the archdiocese repudiated a debt of ten million dollars, on the grounds that the check issued by the archiepiscopal Curia had not been correctly signed. Austen Ivereigh gives a whitewashing account of this incident, presenting Bergoglio as the reformer who cleaned up the mess, but the truth is that, as Cardinal Quarracino’s right-hand man at the time, he must have had inside knowledge of how the check was issued, and the facts were never satisfactorily explained.”(Source: Henry Sire, The Dictator Pope, p. 41)Henry Sire went on to discuss the transfer of the University of Argentina funds in greater detail in an article appearing on the OnePeterFive website.  Mr. Sire, writes (emphasis added):Between 2005 and 2011, some 40 million dollars were transferred from the Catholic University of Argentina to the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (the Vatican Bank), in a transaction that was supposed to be a deposit but which the IOR has hitherto treated as a donation. (Just this year, the reports are that this misappropriation has begun to be remedied, but only partially.) Pablo Garrido was responsible for this transfer, against the protests of members of the university who pointed out that the university, as an educational foundation, could not make a donation to a foreign bank. Together with the case of the Sociedad Militar Seguro de Vida, this is one of the obscure financial episodes in Archbishop Bergoglio’s administration that deserve to be studied in depth by a qualified researcher.(Source:  Henry Sire, Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires: Some More Unanswered Questions, OnePeterFive, September 11, 2018)As Mr. Sire’s research suggests, the transfer of $40 million dollars of funds to IOR (the Vatican bank) and which was converted from a deposit to a donation is quite strange. The suggestion by Mr. Sire seems to be that the funds were used to gain influence for Bergoglio in Rome [NB: Roma Locuta Est had discussed this issue in its articles on the Vatileaks scandal, and the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (see here and here)]. While not suggesting a connection to the transaction, the dates of the transfer begin at a time (2005) when Cardinal Sodano was still Secretary of State (NB: Sodano supported Bergoglio in the 2013 conclave), and end when Archbishop Becciu, now embroiled in a Vatican trial involving allegations of financial corruption, was Substitute for General Affairs at the Vatican beginning in 2011 (NB: The office of Substitute is third highest ranking post in the Holy See). It would be interesting to inquire of Cardinal Becciu if he has any knowledge of these transfers and the use to which they were put.Final Thoughts  As noted throughout this article, the actions of Pope Francis toward Cardinal Becciu seem odd and incongruous when one considers what has been alleged against Becciu going back to 2016. With regard to the more recent allegations of which Becciu is accused; whatever their ultimate merit and the findings of the Tribunal, Francis certainly appears to have accepted there were sufficient grounds to strip Becciu of his curial offices and the benefits attached to him being a Cardinal.Yet, even having done this — though his hand seemingly was forced by public revelations; curiously, Francis met privately in Becciu’s apartment on Holy Thursday of 2021 before the start of the trial, and then teased the possibility of Becciu’s full restoration as a Cardinal before a consistory in August 2022 while the trial was still in process.Why didn’t Francis take action against Becciu in 2016 on the basis of supposedly “incontrovertible” proof? Why did Francis discipline Becciu before the trial?  Why did Francis tease the possibility of restoring Becciu before the trial’s completion?  We know Becciu surreptitiously recorded Francis on at least one occasion. Is Becciu in possession of other recordings of conversations with Francis, or of other types of evidence?  Is Francis worried Becciu might reveal something damaging to his papacy, and if so, what?Becciu served in the Vatican going back to the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.  He appears to have been close to Cardinal Sodano (who consecrated him a bishop) who in turn seemed to be something of an enemy of Pope Benedict XVI, and Cardinal Bertone (see here and here). There are various tantalizing avenues to explore, some of which are considered in The Conclave Chronicles.I suspect we may see more oddities and incongruities emerge in the back and forth between Francis and Becciu before all is said and done in this matter.Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta. He has written apologetic articles, and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms; and of Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI(Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at  or (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on GETTR, TruthSocial, or Gab: @StevenOReilly).

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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