Superior general of Order of St Camillus arrested in Rome
Fr Renato Salvatore accused with others of rigging election for his post
With the Order of Camillus superior Fr Renato Salvatore in prison, Pope Francis may decide to appoint a pontifical commissioner until a new superior can be elected. Photograph: Reuters/Tony Gentile
At this point, you would have to believe that even certain priests have been watching too many action films. Or how else do you explain the arrest in Rome on Wednesday of Fr Renato Salvatore (58), the worldwide head of the missionary and medical Order of St Camillus?
Along with five others, Fr Salvatore is now in prison accused of having sequestered two fellow order members in order to “rig” last May’s elections for the post of superior general.
Before you conclude that the Camillian fathers are suffering from an overdose of the classic Dan Brown/John Le Carrè variety, it is worth pointing that the 16th-century order controls a number of important hospitals in Campania and Sicily. Important church hospitals mean important contracts and to win those contracts, it is always better to be able to count on a helping hand from a friendly superior general.
Line of inquiry
That, at least, is the line of inquiry being pursued by investigating magistrates who believe Fr Salvatore conspired with a well known accountant, Paolo Oliverio, to ensure that two Camillians who might have voted against him would find themselves “detained” on the afternoon of the vote.
The vote in question took place on May 13th in the Casa Del Divin Maestro, a Camillian house in Arricia in the Castelli Romani hills south of Rome. Investigators claim that Fr Rosario Messina and Fr Antonio Puca were summoned, under totally false pretences, for questioning by the finance police. Their “interrogation”, lasted from 1.30pm to 7.30pm on May 13th, thus making it impossible for the two men to vote in the election for superior general.
Investigators are working on the theory that the two missing votes would have gone to Irish Camillian Fr Frank Monks, perhaps tipping the balance in his favour. Fr Monks, himself a former superior general, was not available for comment last night.
They also believe that Paolo Oliverio is the real mastermind behind the operation.
Mr Oliverio is no stranger to financial controversy. One year ago, he featured in an inquiry into Lazio regional councillor Vincenzo Maruccio, accused of having stolen more than €1 million of funds from his party, Italy Of Values, largely to pay off gambling debts. Investigators found that Maruccio had made several payments to Mr Oliverio. The controversial accountant has also appeared as a financial fixer in other recent scandals including “P3” and a Sardinian wind farm investigation.
Furthermore, his name first appeared in the 1980s when he allegedly handled current accounts in Lichtenstein on behalf of judge Renato Squillante, the man accused of having taken bribes from senator Cesare Previti, working on behalf of media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi.
With the Order of Camillus superior in prison, Pope Francis may decide to appoint a pontifical commissioner until such time as a new superior can be elected.