Vatican Prosecutors Seize Data From St. Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis, small figure in all white at center left, delivers his blessing during Easter Sunday Mass inside an empty St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, on April 12, 2020. Pope Francis and Christians around the world marked a solitary Easter Sunday, forced to celebrate the most joyful day in the liturgical calendar amid the sorrowful reminders of the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. (Andreas Solaro/Pool Photo via AP)

ROME (AP) — Vatican prosecutors have ordered the seizure of documents and computers from the administrative offices of St. Peter’s Basilica in an apparently new investigation into financial irregularities in the Holy See.

The Vatican said Tuesday (June 30) that Pope Francis also named a special commissioner to run the basilica, reorganize its offices, update its statutes to comply with new Vatican norms on procurement and contracting and “clarify its administration.”

The Vatican said both decisions stemmed from a report from the Vatican’s auditor general. It said based on the auditor’s report, the Vatican’s criminal prosecutors authorized the seizure Tuesday of documentation and computers from the “Fabbrica di San Pietro,” the offices that manage the pope’s basilica.

The Vatican provided no details about what the auditor flagged or the specific problems the extraordinary commissioner has been tasked with fixing. The commissioner, Bishop Mario Giordana, previously conducted an investigation into financial irregularities within the Sistine Chapel Choir that led to the early retirement of the choirmaster last year.

The choir performs at all papal Masses in the basilica.

Vatican prosecutors never launched a criminal investigation into the choir administration after the Vatican’s financial watchdog, the Financial Information Authority, flagged that revenue from the choir’s concerts wasn’t included in its income statements.

In a statement, the Vatican said the naming of Giordana followed new norms issued by Francis on June 1 to centralize the Vatican’s contracting and procurement procedures in a bid to cut waste, root out corruption and update the Vatican’s financial management.

The Fabbrica is responsible for the management, cleaning and restoration of the basilica, one of the largest in the world, as well as organizing tours of its underground excavations. The present Renaissance-style basilica, designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was built in the 17th century over what tradition says was the tomb of St. Peter.

Vatican prosecutors last year launched a separate investigation into the Vatican secretariat of state’s purchase of a luxury London building amid allegations that middlemen had fleeced the Holy See out of millions of euros. No indictments have been handed down in that case, though a broker was arrested and then released earlier this month.

Source: Associated Press via Religion News Service