(CNN) — Pope Francis was secretly recorded during a phone call with one of his cardinals, a financial trial hearing at the Vatican revealed Thursday.
A Vatican court listened to audio recording between Pope Francis and Cardinal Angelo Becciu, one of the defendants in the trial, in which the cardinal asks the pontiff to confirm that he had authorized payments to help free a kidnapped nun. in Africa.
Journalists were not allowed to listen to the recording, but the Italian news agency Adnkronos later released a Financial Police transcript. Three defense attorneys at the trial also later confirmed the content of the conversation to the journalists present.
The recording was made by a third party who was in the room with Cardinal Becciu during the call on July 24, 2021. The phone conversation occurred three days before the Vatican trial began accusing Becciu of embezzlement and abuse of office, and just 10 days after Francisco left the hospital after bowel surgery.
In the call, Becciu asks the pope to confirm that he had authorized the payments that the cardinal made to a self-described security consultant named Cecilia Marogna ––also accused of embezzlement in the trial–– so that she in turn would pay the company. British Inkerman Group with the aim of helping win the release of the nun who was kidnapped by Islamic militants in Mali in 2017, the transcript said.
The amounts that were paid, according to Cardinal Becciu, who was then number two in the Vatican Secretariat of State, were 350,000 euros (US$363,706) to the British firm and 500,000 euros (US$519,580) in ransom for the nun. .
According to the transcript, the pope said in the call that he vaguely remembered the matter and asked the cardinal to put in writing what he would like the pope to confirm.
Under Vatican law, it is not stipulated that a pope can be called as a witness in a trial.
Cardinal Becciu, who was fired from office and stripped of most of his rights as a cardinal by Pope Francis in September 2020, has always maintained that any financial transactions he made had the full approval of his superiors, including the pontiff. Becciu and Marogna have pleaded not guilty to all charges in the trial.
A statement from Becciu’s lawyers sent to CNN on Thursday did not comment on the secretly recorded phone call.
This revelation about a secretly recorded phone call and what Pope Francis knew about Vatican financial dealings is just the latest in a long and complicated trial centering on the Vatican’s purchase of a luxury building. in London in which 10 people are accused of fraud and extortion.