Monday, August 22, 2022

Cardinal Becciu 'reinstated' by Pope Francis?

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Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints who resigned from all positions in the context of an alleged financial scandal, has said he will participate in the next consistory on Aug. 29 - 30.

He said he will also participate in the consistory for creating new cardinals on Aug. 27. 

Cardinal Becciu announced the news during a private Mass celebrated in Golfo Aranci, in his native Sardinia, where he is spending a holiday.

If true, the decision appears to have come directly from Pope Francis.

Since the pope's decision to remove Becciu from office was personal, it is likely that the invitation to the Italian cardinal to participate in the upcoming consistory can also be considered a personal decision of the pontiff. 

In other words, there might not be any formalization of reinstatement, merely a brief confirmation that Francis did invite the 74-year-old from the Holy See.

The resignation of Becciu from all his Vatican offices and the renunciation of cardinalate prerogatives was announced on Sept. 24, 2020, in a sparse communication from the Holy See Press Office published late in the evening.

Subsequently, Cardinal Becciu made it known that the pope told him in an audience that same evening that he no longer trusted him and that there were accusations of embezzlement against him.

The allegations were then officially made in the so-called Vatican "trial of the century," which sees Cardinal Becciu among the ten defendants.

Becciu is charged with embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion, and abuse of office.

The trial focuses on the purchase of a luxury property in London by the Secretariat of State. Becciu also faces charges for allocating money from the Secretariat of State to Caritas in his native region.

The Sardinian is furthermore called to answer for the engagement of Cecilia Marogna as a consultant to the Secretariat of State.

The cessation of the cardinal prerogatives of Cardinal Becciu had never been certified by a formal decree of the College of Cardinals.

The cardinal has retained the title but ceased to be a member of the Vatican dicasteries to which he was assigned and did not participate in the meetings of the cardinals.

Since Sept. 24, 2020, Cardinal Becciu has no longer participated in any consistory.

Therefore, the reinstatement would only concern the cardinalate functions, not the reintegration into the roles previously held by Cardinal Becciu. When the cardinal left, he was prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Pope's Special Delegate for the Order of Malta. These assignments will not be re-entrusted to him, at least while the corruption trial is underway.

Cardinal Becciu first gave the news of his reintegration during an Aug. 21 Mass he celebrated in Sardinia, where he is on vacation. The cardinal said the pope called him on Aug. 20.

"On Saturday, the pope rang me to tell me that I will be reinstated in my cardinal functions and to ask me to participate in a meeting with all the cardinals to be held in the next few days in Rome. For this reason, next Sunday I will not be able to be present at Mass since I am busy in Rome," Becciu said.

The reintegration of Becciu into his cardinal functions does not mean, however, a full rehabilitation by Pope Francis, who still wants the trial in the Vatican to take its course.

The pope visited Cardinal Becciu on Holy Thursday 2021 and celebrated the Eucharist in his house, but this did not prevent the cardinal from going to trial.

Becciu did, however, spread the news of the papal visit in 2021, and the information was not officially confirmed in a statement by the Holy See Press Office — though it was reported on Vatican News.

Cardinal Becciu is the first cardinal to be tried by a Vatican court, after Pope Francis, with a motu proprio of Apr. 30, 2021, decided that the court could also charge cardinals. 

Previously, cardinals could only be tried by the highest Vatican Court, the Apostolic Signatura, which comprises two cardinal members and a president. 

In practice, cardinals could previously only be judged by their peers.