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Archbishop admits spying on other Vatican officials [News analysis]

March 21, 2023

Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, the sostituto or deputy secretary of state, has admitted that he authorized electronic surveillance of the director of the Vatican bank, without legal authorization.

“I did it, and if necessary I would do it again,” the archbishop told a Vatican tribunal, in revealing testimony in the landmark financial-misconduct case.

Archbishop Pena Parra—who is not a defendant in the case—said that he ordered the surveillance because he wanted information about the “anomalous attitude” of directors of the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), who had refused an application from the Secretariat of State for a loan to support a controversial London real-estate deal.

Archbishop Pena Parra also allowed that he “maybe” asked a subordinate to arrange for a wiretap on the phone of Gianfranco Mammi, who was then director of the IOR.

Because the surveillance took place both inside Vatican City and on Italian territory, the archbishop could be exposed to prosecution in both jurisdictions for illegal electronic surveillance.

Like his predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who is the leading defendant in the current trial, Archbishop Pena Parra has exercised enormous influence. The office of sostituto makes him in effect the Vatican’s chief of staff, responsible for the day-to-day administration of Vatican affairs. His decision to order surveillance without seeking any legal approval—together with his testimony that he would do it again—highlights the fundamental problem at issue in the Vatican financial trial: the willingness of senior Vatican officials, particularly in the Secretariat of State, to make decisions they are not authorized to make, for which they are (ordinarily) not held accountable.

The archbishop’s testimony also lends support to the charge of Libero Milone, the former Vatican auditor, who has said that his offices were bugged after he began investigating evidence of misconduct by officials of the Secretariat of State. Ironically, Milone was forced to resign after then-Archbishop Becciu—who was then sostitutio—charged Milone with spying illegally on other Vatican officials. Milone has filed a lawsuit, now pending before a Vatican court, charging that he was wrongfully dismissed.


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  • Posted by: rfr46 - Mar. 23, 2023 3:45 AM ET USA

    Can we find 10 honest men in the Vatican?

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 22, 2023 11:22 AM ET USA

    No one higher up in the Vatican seems to be concerned about the massive scandal they create, and how discouraging it is for the Catholic faithful to support financially their dishonest operations. I wonder if they harm the Church intentionally?

  • Posted by: frjt - Mar. 21, 2023 4:26 PM ET USA

    Judas lives!

  • Posted by: jonesd1936 - Mar. 21, 2023 3:53 PM ET USA

    Evil in high places ? We are no longer surprised nor scandalized. satan is having his hour; God will have his day !!!