Two new blockbuster books containing leaked documents about the Vatican’s internal financial operations, set for release this coming Thursday. The books”Avarice: The Papers that Reveal Wealth, Scandals and Secrets in the Church of Francis” and “Via Crucis”, were written by Italian journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, respectively.
Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi’s “Merchants in the Temple” follows his blockbuster 2012 book, “His Holiness,” based on confidential papal correspondence corruption and political intrigue in the Vatican. The Vatileaks scandal that ensued resulted in the conviction of Pope Benedict XVI’s butler for leaking the documents, and some say, to Benedict’s historic resignation. Both book promise to reveal scores of previously secret Vatican documents. The Vatican announced on Monday that two people, Spanish Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda and Italian laywoman Francesca Chaouqui, had been detained on suspicion of having leaked confidential documents used in the new books. The priest is in a jail cell in the custody of Vatican police, known as “gendarmeria,” while Chaoqui was released on Sunday after assisting the authorities in their investigation. Chaoqui is said to be cooperating in the probe.
Chaoqui is an independent PR consultant, while Vallejo is secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, an office that formerly reviewed the work of all offices of the Vatican that manage finances. Vallejo is Spanish and Chaoqui Italian/Moroccan, so the Vatican might need help from authorities in those two countries if it decides to pursue criminal charges. Vallejo and Chaoqui are accused of collaborating with Italian journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi for their upcoming books, “Avarice: The Papers that Reveal Wealth, Scandals and Secrets in the Church of Francis” and “Via Crucis,” respectively.The two detainees are father Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, 54, who is Spanish, and the Italian-Moroccan Francesca Chaoqui, 33. both were members of the Pontifical Commission established on Pope Francis’ order to investigate the Church’s finances. Vallejo and Chaoqui were arrested after a months-long investigation into the dissemination of “news and confidential documents” to the writers of the soon to be released books.They will both be judged under the Law of the Vatican State, officials said.The two books, in the Vatican statement, said that “this time, as in the past, they’re the result of a serious betrayal of the pope’s trust,” and defined the books as “an operation to take advantage of a serious unlawful release of confidential documents. Italian news reports said the Vatican’s gendarmeria, or police force, were investigating who had tampered with the computer of the Vatican’s auditor general, Libero Milone, a layman.
The Vatican’s press statement said Chaouqui, 33, was released after spending one night in jail in exchange for her cooperation with investigations. Meanwhile, the position of Spanish prelate Msgr. Balda, 54, is still being examined by the Promoter of Justice.
Spanish father Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda (L) and Francesca Chaoqui (R) were part of a commission set up to investigate the Church’s finances. | Photo: Twitter (Famiglia Cristiana)