(CNN) – Pope Francis was secretly recorded during a phone call with one of the cardinals, a financial court hearing in the Vatican revealed Thursday.
A Vatican court has heard an audio recording between Pope Francis and Cardinal Angelo Besio, one of the defendants in the trial, in which the cardinal asked the pope to confirm that he had authorized payments to help free a kidnapped nun in Africa.
Journalists were not allowed to listen to the recording, but the Italian news agency Adnkronos later released a transcript from the financial police. Three defense lawyers at the trial later confirmed the content of the conversation to the journalists present.
The recording was made by a third party who was in the room with Cardinal Becciu during the call on July 24, 2021. The phone conversation occurred three days before the start of the Vatican trial charging Becciu with embezzlement and abuse of office, and only 10 days after Francisco left hospital after bowel surgery.
In the call, Becciu asked the pope to confirm that he had authorized payments made by the cardinal to a security consultant who describes herself as Cecilia Marogna — also accused of embezzlement at trial — so that she would in turn pay the British firm Inkerman Group with the aim of helping to free the nun kidnapped by Islamist militants in the city, the statement said. Mali 2017.
The sums paid were, according to Cardinal Besio, then second in the Vatican’s secretariat of foreign affairs, €350,000 (US$363,706) to the British company and €500,000 (US$519,580) ransom to the nun.
According to the transcript, the pope said on the call that he vaguely remembered it and asked the cardinal to write down what he wanted the pope to confirm.
Under Vatican law, Vatican law does not provide that the pope can be called as a witness at trial.
Cardinal Besio, who was excommunicated by Pope Francis from most of his rights as a cardinal in September 2020, has maintained that any financial transactions he made had the full approval of his superiors, including the pope. Becciu and Marogna both pleaded not guilty to all charges at trial.
A statement from Becciu’s attorney sent to CNN on Thursday did not comment on the secretly recorded phone call.
The revelation of a secretly recorded phone call and what Pope Francis knew about the Vatican’s financial dealings is just the latest episode in a long and complex trial centered on the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury building in London, in which 10 people have been charged with fraud and extortion.
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