A historic fraud trial began Tuesday in Vatican City, and the world is all eyes on 10 defendants accused of embezzlement, fraud, and corruption.
Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the pope’s former chief of staff, is one of the defendants being accused of using $400 million of church money to buy real estate in one of London’s wealthiest districts.
Becciu and nine others allegedly used funds from “Peter’s Pence,” an annual collection around the world meant to support papal charities, to purchase a building in Chelsea, which was to be converted into a luxury apartment. Becciu has since denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
He has, however, agreed to go along with the trial to respect the pope’s wishes. “The pope wanted me to go on trial. I am obedient. I am here,” Becciu told reporters in the Vatican Museums, where the proceedings are taking place.
The trial is being referred to as the “trial of the century,” as it is the largest criminal trial in Vatican modern history, and the first time a cardinal has been indicted and tried before a Vatican criminal court.
Pope Francis has notably fired Becciu from his chief of staff position and stripped him of his privileges as a cardinal. He has been lauded for taking action and allowing the trial to proceed, in what will most likely be the ultimate example of the Vatican’s attitude towards corruption within its doors.
Though, others say that figures close to the pope and even the pope himself may have a level of involvement in the case. According to Becciu, he and his allies are being used as scapegoats to cover up larger systemic failings.
Tuesday’s hearing was mostly procedural, lasting about eight hours, with only Becciu and his former secretary, Monsignor Mauro Carlino, being present. The trial was adjourned until October 5.