Pope Francis on Nov. 8 denounced the stealing and leaking of confidential documents from the Vatican as “a crime.” At the same time, he confirmed his determination to press ahead with the financial reforms that he started in July 2013 and that are now underway in the Vatican.
It was the pope’s first public comment about the theft and leaking of confidential documents regarding Vatican finances and the mismanagement, difficulties, failures and even criminal activities that have taken place in relation to these over past years. The leaked documentation was gathered by a commission specifically set up by Francis in July 2013 to investigate the whole situation of Vatican finances.
Two members of that commission—a Spanish monsignor who worked in the Roman Curia, Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, and an Italian public relations expert, Francesca Chaouqui—were arrested for allegedly leaking the documentation to two Italian journalists. While Msgr. Vallejo Balda, 54, is still in a Vatican prison, Ms. Chaouqui, 33, is back in her home, released because she had begun to collaborate with the investigators.
America has learned that there was another reason for the rapid release. Ms. Chaouqui is more than two months pregnant, and sources say the pope did not want her held in prison given her condition. This also explains why she was detained in a convent of women religious inside the Vatican and not in a prison cell, as Vallejo Balda was. He is in the same cell that was occupied by Benedict XVI’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, author of the original Vatileaks scandal three years ago. Since being released, Ms. Chaouqui has maintained her innocence in conversations with journalists, and on Facebook and Twitter she stated: “I am not a mole. I have not betrayed the pope. I never gave a page to anybody.” She blames Vallejo Balda for dragging her into the scandal.
After greeting thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke publicly about these criminal acts and the negative publicity they have generated in the media, following the publication of the two books—Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi, and Avarizia by Emiliano Fittipaldi—based on the leaks.
“I know that many of you have been upset by the news circulating in recent days concerning the Holy See’s confidential documents that were taken and published,” he told them.
“For this reason,” he said, “I want to tell you, first of all, that stealing those documents was a crime. It’s a deplorable act that does not help.”
He told the crowd, “I personally had asked for that study to be carried out and both I and my advisers were well acquainted with [the contents of] those documents and steps have been taken that have started to bear fruit, some of them even visible.
“I wish to reassure you that this sad event certainly does not deter me from the reform project that we are carrying out, together with my advisers and with the support of all of you,” Pope Francis added. He concluded, “I therefore thank you and ask you to continue to pray for the pope and the church, without getting upset or troubled, but proceeding with faith and hope.”