Pope’s Role in Financial Scandal Again Takes Center Stage

Pope Francis’ own role in the investigation into financial wrongdoing at the Holy See took center stage Friday in the Vatican tribunal, with witnesses saying he encouraged a key suspect to cooperate with prosecutors and a key defendant accusing him of interfering in the trial.

Friday’s hearing was one of the most eagerly anticipated in the Vatican’s “trial of the century,” given it featured testimony from one of the more colorful figures in recent Vatican history, Francesca Chaouqui. The public relations expert was summoned after it emerged late last year that she had played a behind-the-scenes role in persuading a key suspect-turned-star-witness to change his story and implicate his former boss, Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

But the daylong hearing ended with an unexpected bombshell, as Becciu responded to Chaouqui’s testimony by reading aloud an exchange of letters with the pope that suggested Francis himself continued to cast a shadow over the trial, even if inadvertently.

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