Can a State with little more than 800 inhabitants and 600 citizens afford to carry on a major criminal trial under due process of law? The Vatican State, officially known as “Stato della Città del Vaticano,” is by far the smallest country globally in terms of population, dwarfed even by the smallest Polynesian island-states. Despite its size, it attempts to maintain the same complex organizational structure as its larger counterparts, with both treasury and finance, and a justice system of apparently modern form.
Both fundamental state organizations are under scrutiny in a significant criminal case pending in front of the Court of the Vatican State, the “Tribunale dello Stato della Città del Vaticano.” Ten defendants, including laymen and clergymen, such as the once-powerful Cardinal Angelo Becciu, face charges of multiple crimes. These charges revolve around the alleged mismanagement of huge resources from the Segreteria di Stato, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, invested in disputable affairs, notably the London real estate market, resulting in substantial financial losses.
While the trial exposes doubts about the Segreteria di Stato’s ability to manage state resources professionally, it also reveals wider issues with the legitimacy of the Vatican justice system, seemingly falling short of modern standards.
As the trial nears its conclusion, the Promotore di Giustizia, or State Public Prosecutor, Prof. Alessandro Diddi, has presented closing arguments, urging the conviction of all ten defendants for charges such as fraud against the state, embezzlement, bribery, extortion, and money laundering. The alleged damage to the Vatican State is claimed to exceed 170 million euros. The court is expected to reach a decision before the end of the year.
The central issues revolve around the questionable investment of Vatican State resources in UK-managed funds and the dispersal of Segreteria di Stato resources under the direction of Cardinal Becciu. The trial implicates Italian financial brokers, Mr. Raffaele Mincione and Mr. Gianluigi Torzi, who both maintain their innocence, insisting they acted in the best interest of their client, the Segreteria di Stato.
However, beyond the guilt or innocence of the accused, a more critical question arises: is the Vatican State capable of ensuring justice under the due process of law, an international standard for civilized countries, or is it merely a façade to preserve the image of a minuscule Absolute Monarchy? The Pope, who heads the state, also controls the judiciary power, acting as the First Magistrate. The Vatican Criminal Procedure Code closely mirrors the Italian codice di procedura penale of 1911.
Concerns about the justice system’s adequacy have been raised throughout the proceedings, with instances of clashes between defense rights and what appears to be an outdated and non-modern due process standard. Notably, Pope Franciscus intervened in the proceedings through a decree, allowing the prosecutor to follow a specific rule for evidence collection, retroactively and exclusively for this case.
The fundamental question remains: why does the Vatican State, and Pope Franciscus personally, accept a criminal trial fraught with significant due process infringements, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the defendants? Some speculate that the Vatican State is desperate to demonstrate its ability to resolve historical financial mismanagement issues. The substantial sums invested in London real estate, funded by offerings from the global Catholic community, bring attention to the management of these funds, which, according to trial revelations, appears to have been lacking in professionalism.
It is posited that Pope Franciscus may be looking to assign blame to show a commitment to cleaning up financial mismanagement within the Vatican. The Pope’s statements, both in official addresses and interviews, suggest a predisposition to hold certain individuals accountable for undermining the Church’s efficacy.
the Vatican State’s trial raises questions not only about the guilt of the defendants but also about the legitimacy of the justice system and the motivations behind pursuing convictions. As the trial unfolds, it not only exposes financial mismanagement but also challenges the credibility of the Vatican State’s commitment to justice and due process.