Pope Francis was secretly taped during a phone conversation with one of his cardinals, it emerged Thursday during an ongoing Vatican financial case.
A court at the Vatican heard the audio recording between Pope Francis and Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a defendant in the trial in which the cardinal is asking the pope to confirm he approved payments to help rescue a kidnapped nun in Africa.
Journalists were not allowed to listen to the recording, but a transcript from the Italian Financial Police was subsequently released by the Italian news agency Adnkronos. Three defenders of the process later confirmed the content of the conversation to Vatican journalists who were present.
The recording was made by a third party in the room with Cardinal Becciu during the phone conversation that took place on July 24, 2021. The call came three days before the start of the Vatican trial accusing Becciu of embezzlement and abuse of office, and just 10 days after Francis was discharged from hospital for bowel surgery.
In the call, Becciu asks the pope to confirm that he authorized the payments the cardinal made to a self-proclaimed national security adviser named Cecilia Marogna — who is also accused of embezzlement at the trial — to pay British company Inkerman Group, to support the release of the nun kidnapped by Islamist militants in Mali in 2017, the transcript said.
According to Cardinal Becciu, who was number two in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State at the time, the amounts paid totaled 350,000 euros ($363,706) to the British company and 500,000 euros ($519,580) as a ransom for the nun.
According to the record, when the pope called, he said he vaguely remembered and asked the cardinal to put in writing what he wanted the pope to confirm.
Vatican law does not allow a pope to be called as a witness in a trial.
Cardinal Becciu, who was fired from his job by Pope Francis in September 2020 and stripped of most of his rights as a cardinal, has always maintained that all financial transactions he has conducted have been fully authorized by his superiors, including Pope Francis. Becciu and Marogna have pleaded not guilty to all charges at the trial.
A statement from Beccius’s attorneys, shared with CNN on Thursday, did not comment on the secretly taped call.
The revelations about a secretly recorded phone call and what Pope Francis knew about the Vatican’s financial transactions are just the latest findings in a long and complicated trial centered around the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury building in London in which 10 defendants were accused accused of fraud and extortion.