Pope Francis accepted the double renunciation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, of his office as Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and “of the rights attached to the Cardinalate,” announced the Holy See Press Office, around 8:00 pm on Thursday, September 24, 2020, in a press release in Italian.
According to the Italian press, the news was announced after a difficult audience accorded by the Pope to the Sardinian Cardinal in the usual framework in view of the publication of Decrees of Saints introduced at Rome and before the publication, on September 24, of a dossier of L’Expresso.
A Precedent in the College of Cardinals
Cardinal Becciu, 72, is not resigning, therefore, for the canonical limit of age for retirement (75 Years). And this double renunciation seems to be inscribed in the dynamic of the sanitization of the Vatican’s financial practices. Cardinal Becciu has defended himself: “I am innocent and I will prove it” (Franca Giansoldati in Il Messaggero).
Cardinal Becciu remains a Cardinal but loses his rights of which, notably, is participation in the pre-Conclave and Conclave, but also in the consistories for the Causes of Saints, for example, or the capacity to represent the Pope in different circumstances. However, he doesn’t lose his title.
Therefore, Cardinal Becciu is not excluded from the College of Cardinals — as American Theodore McCarrick in 2018 — but he will no longer have a Cardinal’s privileges, like Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who did not take part in the 2013 Conclave, and who was stripped of his rights on March 20, 2015. He died in 2018. However, in the two cases of McCarrick and of O’Brien, it had to do with sexual scandals.
The London Investigation
At this time, the reasons for Cardinal Becciu’s double renunciation are not officially known. However, the press in Rome mentions a link between this resignation and the investigation on the Vatican’s acquisition, in 2014, of a building in London — 160 million at stake –, as “Vatican News explained last June, without implicating Cardinal Becciu. “The investigation of the Vatican justice, led by the gendarmerie corps, revealed modes of fraud and extortion connected with the purchase, in the heart of the British capital, of the Sloane Avenue building.”
For its part, the Italian press recalled the implication of persons close to the Cardinal — including a former secretary — in a financial arrangement for the acquisition of this building described as “rather opaque” by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, on October 29, 2019.
Again according to the Italian press (L’Expresso), this investigation will reveal that Cardinal Becciu also favored members of his family. “The Pope calls for clarity and punishment of the guilty,” writes Massimiliano Coccia.
For its part, as Il Messaggero, the Catholic daily Avvenire recalls that the Cardinal “rejected forcefully “ the “journalistic reconstructions,” affirming his implication. The Cardinal said: “My conscience is in order and I know that I acted in the interest of the Holy See and never in my own. Those who know me up close can witness to this.”
Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu was born on June 2, 1948, at Pattada (Sardinia, Italy). Benedict XVI appointed him Substitute for General Affairs of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State in May of 2011, an office he exercised for five years, during Pope Francis’ pontificate, up to June 29, 2018.
Pope Francis created him Cardinal on June 28, 2018, taking up his functions as Prefect in August of 2018. He has presided over many Beatification Masses, including that of the 10 martyrs of Algeria, at Oran, on December 8, 2018, in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
The Pope’s decision would have been all the more difficult as Monsignor Becciu has been close to him. In 2013, from his first Holy Thursday at the Vatican — day when the Church celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and of the priesthood –, the Pontiff lunched with the parish priests of Rome thanks to the hospitality of the Substitute. And it became a tradition: last year again, on April 18, 2019, Pope Francis lunched with the Cardinal and with some ten priests of Rome.
The Holy Father also went to Sardinia on September 22, 2013, guided by the Sardinian Substitute. He celebrated Mass at Cagliari at the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, whose name was given to the Argentine’s capital, “Buenos Aires.”
On announcing the Consistory on May 20, 2018, the Pontiff said: “Let us pray for the new Cardinals, so that, confirming their adherence to Christ, Great Merciful and Faithful Priest, they may help me in my ministry as Bishop of Rome, for the good of all the faithful Holy People of God.”
Canon Law explains the role of Cardinals thus: “The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church constitute a particular College to which it falls to provide for the election of the Roman Pontiff according to the particular law; the Cardinals also assist the Roman Pontiff, acting collegially when convoked as a body to address questions of great importance, or individually, namely in the different offices they fulfill by helping the Roman Pontiff especially in the daily care of the entire Church” (Canon 349).
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester