Vatican investigates Italian journalists who use leaks

Vatican launches probe into two Italian journalists' leaking of confidential documents amid widened leaks scandal

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi attends a news conference at the Vatican on October 21, 2015

The Vatican said on Wednesday that it was investigating two Italian journalists over confidential documents that were leaked to the media showing gross financial mismanagement in the city-state.

Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi were put under investigation on suspicion of complicity "in the offence of divulging confidential news and documents", Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

The Vatican has accused the journalists of trying to take financial advantages from receiving leaked documents.

The latest case in the scandal came in a statement about the books based on leaked classified documents published by the two journalists last week. The books are shedding an unflattering light on corruption, theft and uncontrolled spending at the Vatican.

The journalists claimed in their books that charity money was allegedly used for refurbishing the houses of powerful cardinals.

One of the two books is “Merchants in the Temple” by Gianluigi Nuzzi. He follows his 2012 book “His Holiness” based on the leaked documents he received from former Pope Benedict’s butler Gabriele in a scandal.

The other book is “Avarice: Documents Revealing Wealth, Scandals and Secrets of Francis' Church” by Emiliano Fittipaldi who writes for L'Espresso Newsweekly, a willing publisher for leaks in recent years.

The Vatican condemned the two books saying that the books based on stolen documents "generate confusing and partial, tendentious interpretations."

Since the Vatican is a sovereign city-state and the two journalists are Italian citizens, unless they accept to be questioned by the Vatican, the Holy See have to ask Italian investigators to do it, which is a complicated and lengthy diplomatic process.

Both journalists have rejected the accusations saying that they were just doing their jobs.

On Nov. 2. the Vatican arrested a Spanish high-ranking Holy See official and a public relations expert for allegedly stealing and leaking confidential documents to the journalists for their books.

Both of them were members of Pope Francis’ commission that he set up shortly after his election in March 2013 to advise him on economic and bureaucratic reforms in the Holy See.

Pope Francis speaks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on November 11, 2015 (Reuters)

The Vatican said it also suspected other Holy See officials "who may have cooperated in acquiring the confidential documents", for the journalists.

"Investigators are also looking into the role of people who, because of their office positions (in the Vatican) may have cooperated in obtaining the confidential documents," Lombardi said in the statement, indicating that the scandal looked set to widen soon.

Pope Francis was tasked by his cardinal electors with stamping his authority on the Curia, the Church’s governing body, and cleaning up the Vatican bank. However, the latest leaks scandal seemed to incite criticisms on his reform programme.

On Sunday, Francis pledged that the leaks would not refrain him from continuing financial and administrative reforms.

"Publishing these documents was an error," he said after leading Angelus prayers.

"It was a deplorable act which does not help."

Scandal widens

The Vatican’s prosecutors also launched another probe into Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), the Holy See’s general accounting office, over the disclosure of a secret document about the organistaions.

Lombardi denied claims saying that APSA was not under investigation.

However, the head of Italian investment bank Banca Finnat,  Gianpietro Nattino is suspected of using the organisation for money laundering.

The discrepancy reminded the memories of the 2012 “Vatileaks” scandal that centred around documents fed to the media by the butler of Benedict which contributed former Pope Benedict’s resignation in 2013.

The storm prompted the Vatican to introduce new legislation in 2013 that threatens up to two years in jail or a fine of up to 5,000 euros ($5,400) for anyone who "procured illegitimately, or reveals information or documents whose dissemination is prohibited."

TRTWorld and agencies