Vatican downplays 2 books recounting financial misdeeds

AP News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2015 1:34 PM
Vatican downplays 2 books recounting financial misdeeds

MILAN (AP) — The Vatican sought Wednesday to play down a pair of books recounting financial malfeasance and greed within the Vatican, saying many of the disclosures were already known and the material creates confusion about Pope Francis' well-known reform course.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi emphasized the illegally leaked documents that provided information for the books were the result of "data and information put in motion by the Holy Father himself" in the pope's efforts to reform the Vatican's bureaucracy and finances.

The publication of "a large bulk of information" that refers to "outdated" events creates the impression of "a permanent reign of confusion, of non-transparency and even the pursuit of individual or incorrect interests" that run counter to Francis' efforts to reform the Vatican, Lombardi said in comments carried by Vatican Radio.

The books by veteran Vatican reporters are to be published Thursday but were obtained in advance by The Associated Press.

Among the disclosures in "Merchants in the Temple," Gianluigi Nuzzi writes that the cost of sainthood can run up to half a million dollars and tells the tale of a monsignor who allegedly broke down the wall of his neighbor, an ailing priest, to expand his apartment.

Emiliano Fittipaldi, the author of "Avarice," claims a foundation set up to support a children's hospital paid 200,000 euros toward renovating the apartment of the Vatican's No. 2 at the time, Tarciso Bertone, and that money donated to help the poor was diverted to pay for running the Vatican.

Bertone came under fire last year over the apartment, described in the book as a "mega-penthouse." Bertone has said he paid for the renovations himself.

Lombardi took issue with the reports regarding the St. Peter's Pence collection for the poor, saying where donations go was up to the "judgment of the Holy Father."

"The pope's charity works for the poor are certainly one of the essential destinations, but it is certainly not the intention of the faithful to exclude that the pope can evaluate himself urgent essentials," Lombardi said.

Those "essentials" could include supporting the Vatican bureaucracy, or Roman Curia, which among other things works to distribute papal charity around the world, he noted.

Lombardi also noted that a new management council for the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital in Rome had its first meeting Wednesday, indicating "a climate of renewal."

The Vatican this week arrested two former members of a papal commission set up to gather information and make reform recommendations in an investigation into stolen documents. The leaked documents and arrests mirrors disclosures in an earlier book by Nuzzi that helped drive Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to a historic resignation.