The second important detail of the indictment order is the reaction of the Vatican prosecutor to the British judge Tony Baumgartner. Baumgartner overturned the earlier decision of a British court to seize Torzi’s accounts following a Vatican request. Baumgartner also questioned the reliability of the Vatican prosecution. The ruling often used the words “mischaracterization” and “misinterpretation” to describe the Vatican prosecutor’s conclusions.
Baumgartner raised some questions. He asked why, if Torzi was considered a hustler, he could meet the Pope and was treated with courtesy. And why, the British judge went on, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the deputy of the Secretariat of State, gave 15 million to Torzi in exchange for his shares of the London real estate, which was formally in the Vatican hands?
The London ruling also included an email by Archbishop Peña Parra to Gianluigi Torzi sent on Jan. 22, 2019. Torzi asked for 20 million euros to leave his shares, and the Secretariat of State offered 5.5 million euros. Peña Parra also wrote to Torzi that he was “convinced that the amount is adequate and congruous unless the parties raised other issues.” Peña Parra also wrote that “as agreed, we want to close the issue in the shortest time possible, and so I have full confidence in your collaboration.”
According to Baumgartner, that email proves there was an ongoing negotiation. Instead, the Vatican prosecutor writes that the email came in a heated climate and that it “seems to be a Secretariat of State’s pleading to Torzi.”
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Baumgartner had also noted that “an applicant to this court for a restraint order relying on external requests should be careful in relying upon facts unverified or unsupported by direct evidence, and should not unhesitatingly rely upon assertions that are not properly established on the facts.”
The Vatican prosecutors strongly rejected that their conclusions are “unsupported by direct evidence.”
In the end, there is a clash between the interpretation of evidence made by the Vatican prosecutor and at least one foreign court. The question is, can the evidence be reliable then? On which objective basis will the trial be based?
There are other questions regarding the investigation. Initially, it was said that the pope did not know about the London real estate investment, nor had he ever met some of the protagonists involved in the operation.
When a photo of the pope with Torzi emerged, taken one Christmas time in Santa Marta, it was said that the pope met Torzi, but he knew nothing of the operation underway.
Finally, in response to the Associated Press, the Vatican Tribunal said the pope had entered the room where negotiations were taking place to liquidate Torzi’s holdings in the Holy See’s real estate companies and invited everyone to find a solution. Giuseppe Milanese, owner of a cooperative society and a personal friend of the pope, was a mediator for the agreement. In an interview with the Italian television program Report, broadcast at the end of April, he said that the pope asked the parts to find an agreement “at the right amount of payment.”
If the pope knew and spoke about a payment, can Torzi’s action be described as blackmail, or just part of the negotiation? And also: if the pope was aware of everything and had authorized the operation, why the investigation?
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Finally: if Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra was aware and had endorsed the whole operation, why wasn’t he too included in the investigation?
These details might put into question the accusatory framework of the Vatican prosecutor.
The first hearing of the trial will take place on July 27, and hopefully, these questions will find answers.