Vatican investigates journalists over alleged leaks

Authors of books on Pope Francis and Holy See reform charged over stolen documents

Avarizia (Greed) and Via Crucis (Stations of the Resurrection), by Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi respectively, both reproduce confidential financial documents allegedly stolen from the Vatican. Photograph: Ciro Fusco/EPA

Two investigative journalists behind controversial books about the Vatican are under investigation by the Vatican City state judiciary on charges related to trafficking stolen documents, the Holy See said on Thursday.

Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi are the authors of two books published last week that claim that elements within the Roman Curia are opposed to Pope Francis's reform process and that senior figures in the Catholic Church do not always live a modest lifestyle.

Last Monday, four days before both books were released, the Holy See was rocked by the arrests of both Spanish monsignor Lucio Ángel Vallejo Balda and of lay person Francesca Chaouqui, who were charged with "the removal and dissemination" of confidential financial documents.

The monsignor and Ms Chaouqui are both close to the influential Opus Dei movement, and had served together on Cosea, a commission established by Pope Francis in July 2013 to rationalise the "economic-administrative" structure of the Holy See.

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Given that many of the documents reproduced by both books come from the workings of the Cosea commission, it has been alleged that the monsignor and Ms Chaouqui were responsible for passing the documents to the two authors.

Msgr Balda is still under Vatican arrest. Ms Chaouqui was released after questioning.

Confirming the investigations into the two journalists, the Holy See's senior spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi also indicated that the inquiry into the leaks may be extended to other office holders in the Holy See.

Fr Lombardi said, “The Vatican gendarmerie, in its capacity as the judicial police force, had [already] reported to the Vatican magistrate [with regard to] the operations of the two journalists, Nuzzi and Fittipaldi, and their possible participation in the crime of dissemination of news and confidential documents.

“During the current investigation, the magistrature has acquired evidence indicating involvement in this offence by the two journalists who, accordingly, are now under investigation.

“Not only the two authors but also other persons, who for reasons associated with their office co-operated in the acquisition of the confidential documents in question, are now under investigation.”

Mr Fittipaldi reacted to news to the investigation with a tweet, saying: “I am a journalist. When a journalist comes across a news story, he cannot not publish it . . . ”

‘Powerful institution’

He told Rome daily

Il Fatto Quotidiano

that he was not surprised by this latest development, saying, “I expected it . . . when you tell uncomfortable truths about a powerful institution, in this case about the temporal power of the church, then you have got to expect a reaction . . . ”

What remains unclear is how far the Vatican authorities will push their investigation in relation to the two authors who are Italian – not Vatican – citizens and therefore outside Vatican jurisdiction.

Many Vatican insiders believe that it is highly unlikely that the Holy See would request the extradition of both men to face any charges brought against them.

Rather, the revelation that both are under Vatican investigation is seen as a demonstrative gesture, perhaps intended to discourage others from pursuing the same investigative journalism path.

Other commentators argue that this latest development in the Vatileaks Two affair will do the church no favours since international media will interpret it as a clampdown on press freedom.

Mr Fittipaldi made this point today when he pointed out that, unlike Italy which has a press freedom clause in its constitution, the Holy See does not protect the right "to inform and to be informed".