Pope’s chief of staff could undercut star witness in Vatican’s ‘trial of the century’ | Crux

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by
Pope’s chief of staff could undercut star witness in Vatican’s ‘trial of the century’
Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra with Pope Francis in 2018. (Credit: Vatican News.)

ROME – In a decision that could set the stage for a decisive turn in the Vatican’s long-running “trial of the century,” the president of the Vatican’s tribunal ruled Thursday that although the pope himself cannot be called as a defense witness, the pontiff’s chief of staff, Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, will appear.

The court also ruled that the president of the Institute for the Works of Religion, better known as the “Vatican bank,” French layman Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, also can be questioned.

Defense lawyers had also asked that Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State and thus the pope’s top aide, be called to testify. The court reserved judgment on that request pending the results of Peña Parra’s testimony.

Both Peña Parra and de Franssu are expected to address a controversial $400 million real estate deal in London which is at the heart of the current trial. Thursday’s hearing was the 45th session of the trial since it began in July 2021, featuring ten defendants, including, for the first time in a Vatican criminal proceeding, a cardinal, Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

Peña Parra’s testimony is considered especially crucial to the defense case, since theoretically it could undercut the credibility of the star witness for the prosecution, Italian Monsignor Alberto Perlasca. For ten years, from 2009 to 2019, Perlasca was head of the office for administrative affairs within the Secretariat of State, effectively making him responsible for the secretariat’s financial affairs.

When prosecutors began looking into the London deal, for which the Vatican eventually absorbed a loss of roughly $140 million, Perlasca was a prominent target of the investigation. In the middle of 2021, Perlasca instead volunteered to become a whistle-blower in the case, testifying against former colleagues and superiors, including Becciu.

In effect, Perlasca has attempted to describe himself as a victim of a scheme orchestrated by Becciu in league with unscrupulous Italian financiers, testifying last November: “Becciu made me do the things for which he’s charged in this trial … I’m not an accomplice, nor a conniver, nor an abettor.”


Pope’s chief of staff could undercut star witness in Vatican’s ‘trial of the century’ | Crux

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