Vatican Cardinal Angelo Becciu on Thursday resigned as the head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints amid a financial scandal, according to AP. The congregation is a department of the Holy See that decides who will be a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Holy See, the jurisdiction of the pope, said in a statement only that Pope Francis has accepted Becciu’s resignation “and his rights connected to the cardinalate” have been taken away.
Becciu was reportedly involved in a real estate scandal around the Vatican’s investment in London that had cost the Holy See millions of euros in fees given to middlemen. However, the cardinal was not named in the investigation initiated by the Vatican prosecutor involving many of the officials of the Church as well as middlemen.
The deal is from 2014, when the Vatican invested over $200 million in a fund run by an Italian businessman, which gave the Holy See 45% of a luxury building in London. Becciu was the deputy secretary of state at that time.
In 2018, the Vatican decided to exit the fund and purchase the remainder of the building. The move came after Becciu’s successor said that the mortgage was burdensome and that the Italian businessman was losing money.
However, the buyout cost the Holy See tens of millions of euros and an investigation was initiated. The inquiry led to the suspension of five Roman Catholic Church employees, the resignation of the police chief of the Vatican and the removal of the former chief of Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, The Guardian reported.
The cardinal had denied any wrongdoings, saying he was not in power when the buyout deal was made, and defended his investments in the real estate deal. It is not clear if the scandal was behind Becciu’s resignation.
In June, Gianluigi Torzi, the Italian middleman who was part of the real estate deal, was arrested. The Vatican police charged him with extortion, aggravated fraud, embezzlement and money laundering, a Vatican press statement office.
Further, the Vatican statement identified Becciu as “His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Becciu,” pointing to the fact he would remain a cardinal but not have any rights. One of the most important rights of a cardinal is taking part in the conclave to elect a pope when the current one dies or resigns.
The last time a cardinal’s right was removed was in July 2018. Theodore McCarrick, an American cardinal, had renounced his rights after being implicated in a sexual abuse case. McCarrick was in 2019 defrocked, which means depriving one of ecclesiastical status, by Pope Francis for sexually abusing adults as well as children.