VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis accepted the resignation of high ranking-prelate Cardinal Angelo Becciu from his role as the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, along with the rights of Becciu’s cardinal’s title, on Thursday (Sept. 24).
The Vatican informed journalists with a statement late on Thursday, providing no further details.
The cardinal, formerly a right-hand man of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, was made sostituto by Benedict in 2013, a role equivilent to that of Chief of Staff, and held the position until 2017, when Pope Francis moved him to his more marginal job in the department that oversees the progress of candidacies for sainthood.
Becciu is the third cardinal in recent memory to lose the privileges of the red hat, which include the right to attend the conclave that elects the pope. Known sexual predators Theodore McCarrick and Keith O’Brien were also prohibited from exercising their role as cardinals.
“I prefer silence,” Becciu said with a “broken voice,” speaking to local news outlet Il Messaggero after news of his resignation became public.
Known as an astute diplomat and an avid gun collector, Becciu has recently seen his name mentioned in connection with an array of scandals concerning the Vatican’s financial dealings. In 2019, the Institute for Religious Works, also known as the Vatican bank, flagged suspicious activities at the Secretariat of State relating to financial operations in Vatican agencies overseen by Becciu.
At the heart of the scandal was the investment of Vatican funds, over $233 million, into prime real estate in downtown London with the apparent assistance of Raffaele Mincione, known in Italy for his investments in the country’s struggling banks and for appearing with movie actresses on magazine covers.
Though Becciu insisted the deal was profitable for the Vatican, the Financial Times has reported that the property incurred a loss. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, currently the Vatican’s secretary of state, interviewed in October 2019, called the investment “opaque.”
Becciu was also accused of using charitable donations to pay for the investment, a charge he strenuously denied.
After a Vatican investigation, five Vatican employees were suspended last year, including Monsignor Mauro Carlino, Becciu’s personal secretary. When reports first emerged that the pope was less than pleased with Becciu, the cardinal dismissed them with a laugh.
In 2018 Becciu was mentioned in a letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former Vatican representative to the United States, who stated that the former substitute “knew in every detail” the reports of sexual abuse by McCarrick against seminarians and adults. Becciu was also reportedly involved in attemps to salvage the scandal-ridden Italian Dermatological Hospital of the Immaculate (IDI) in Rome.
Becciu is the the latest casualty of Pope Francis’ efforts to reform the Vatican Curia and finances. The head of the Vatican anti-money laundering entity, René Bruelhart, resigned from his position last November after his No. 2, Tommaso di Ruzza, was implicated in the Vatican-led investigation.