Church investigating cardinal’s apartment renovation

Former Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone says he funded upgrade himself

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone: says he spent €300,000 of his own money on apartment renovation. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone: says he spent €300,000 of his own money on apartment renovation. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

 

The Vatican has opened an investigation into the €422,000 renovation of the apartment of its former secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

A Vatican spokesman, however, said the cardinal himself was not the focus of the investigation, which was in fact directed at Giuseppe Profiti and Massimo Spina, the former president and former treasurer respectively of the church-run Bambino Jesu children’s hospital, next to St Peter’s Square.

Arguably the most controversial allegation about the apartment renovation is that it was financed by funds from the Fondazione Bambino Jesu, the fundraising arm of the hospital.  

Since the story broke in the summer of 2014, Cardinal Bertone has regularly denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he paid €300,000 of his own money for the work.

Leading Vatican commentator Emiliano Fittipaldi, however, questioned the cardinal’s version of events on Friday.

Fittipaldi is no ordinary Vatican commentator. Along with four other people, including fellow journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, he is currently on trial in the so-called Vatileaks 2 case, accused of “illegally procuring” confidential Holy See information which subsequently featured in his November bestseller Avarice.

Among other things, Fittipaldi claimed in his book that Cardinal Bertone had spent €300,000 on his 300sq m, third-floor-with-terrace, Vatican flat in Palazzo San Carlo, right beside the four times smaller, relatively modest rooms of Pope Francis in the Domus Santa Marta.  

Writing on Friday in the news weekly L’Expresso, Fittipaldi apologised for having got his figures wrong, pointing out that the renovation work had in fact cost €422,000 and not €300,000.

In the article , Fittipaldi quoted November 2013 letters between Cardinal Bertone and Mr Profiti which made it clear that the cleric knew that the children’s hospital would pick up the tab for renovations, which included floors of Carrara marble and oak parquet as well as the installation of a stereo system costing €19,000.

Cardinal Bertone was secretary of state of the Vatican from 2006 to 2013.

Investigators will seek to understand why the Castelli Re building company, which won the orginal contract, then sub-contracted the work to London-based Lg Contractor. Fittipaldi suggests this was done because at the time Castelli Re, declared bankrupt in June of last year, was in serious difficulty.

Whatever the outcome of this investigation, Pope Francis may want to reflect on the fact that Cardinal Bertone claims to have paid out €450,000 in relation to his Vatican-owned apartment  – his alleged initial €300,000 payment and a subsequent €150,000 “good will” gesture payment made to the Bambino Jesu hospital last December, when reports of the renovation resurfaced via Fittipaldi’s book.  Hardly the “Francis-style”.