Vatican rubbishes corruption claims

The Vatican on Saturday fiercely rejected claims by one of its archbishops of widespread corruption and waste in the management of the Holy See, condemning the accusations as utterly groundless.

“The claims are the fruit of erroneous judgements, or based on groundless fears, openly contradicted by those called as witnesses,” the former head of the Vatican’s governorate or administrative body, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, said in a statement.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former secretary general of the governorate and current envoy to Washington, had sent strongly-worded letters warning Pope Benedict XVI of corruption. The letters were published in January in Italian media.

In a rare public rebuke of another top Vatican official, Lajolo said he was “greatly embittered” by the publication of the letters and accusations made.

“The claims cannot help but give the impression that the Vatican governorate, instead of being an instrument of responsible governing, is an untrustworthy entity, controlled by dark forces,” he said.

Lajolo rejected the “baseless suspicions and accusations” the claims had provoked in the media on publication, describing some as “laughable” and pointing the finger at “a certain type of unprofessional journalism.”

‘Disastrous’ situation
In extracts from the letters written in 2011, Vigano said he had faced a “disastrous” situation when he became head of the governorate in 2009 and said his transfer to Washington was a “punishment” for challenging malpractices.

“My transfer is causing disarray and discouragement among those who believed it was possible to resolve the numerous situations of corruption and waste” in the Vatican, he wrote.

Much of his criticism was focused on a Vatican financial committee that includes the head of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. He said the bankers were favouring “their interests” more than the Vatican’s.

In one financial operation by the bankers that went wrong, the Vatican made a net loss of €2.5-million euros, the archbishop said.

He was also highly critical of the cost of basic technical services and said construction contracts for Vatican buildings were always going to the same companies for tariffs that were more than twice as high as in Italy.

Lajolo rebutted the claims, blaming the losses on the 2008 financial crisis and insisting that competition for contracts was transparent and fair.

Vigano has been widely praised in the media for enforcing drastic budget cuts—for example for the traditional Nativity scene on Saint Peter’s square, whose budget was slashed from €550 000 to €200 000.

But Lajolo said that an improvement on the books from 2009 to 2010 was due to factors outside Vigano’s control, namely “the handling of financial investments ...
and the excellent performance of the Vatican Museums”.

The Vatican’s spokesperson, Federico Lombardi, accused Italian media outlets last week of “disinformation,” and said Vigano’s appointment as envoy to Washington was “proof of the pope’s indubitable respect and confidence in him”.

The Repubblica newspaper, however, said that just as Vigano’s decision to rely on Benedict XVI’s stated desire for more transparency had backfired, this public spat with one of the Vatican’s top men could cost him his US post.

“Vigano has been officially contradicted on every point by the Vatican’s top brass and it is now difficult to imagine that he can continue to carry out his diplomatic mission to represent the pope to the US government,” it said.

“There are some at the Vatican who have begun to bet on how long he can hang on,” it added.—AFP

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