Mixed Reactions to Vatican ‘Trial of the Century’: Will Anyone Actually be Jailed?

After a staggering total of 30 months, 85 hearings stretching over some 600 courtroom hours, 69 witnesses and almost 150,000 pages of documentation, the Vatican’s “Trial of the Century” reached a crescendo on Saturday night with guilty verdicts against Cardinal Angelo Becciu and eight of the other nine defendants.

In a sense, the results marked an early birthday present for Pope Francis, who today turns 87, and who set this whole thing in motion in April 2021 by amending the law of the Vatican City State to allow its civil tribunal to judge the cases of cardinals and bishops who work in the Vatican.

So, this long day’s journey into night is finally over, right?

As the saying goes, “Not so fast.” In fact, there’s not just one but multiple shoes left to drop, suggesting that the aftermath may take even longer to play out than the trial itself.

To begin with, there’s the appeals process to consider. An attorney representing Becciu has already announced plans for an appeal, and it’s likely that at least some of the other defendants who were convicted on Saturday may follow suit.

We won’t have to wait long to find out: Under Vatican rules of procedure, someone convicted of a crime by the civil tribunal has just three days to decide whether to file an appeal, and Sunday counts, so the deadline is Tuesday. (As one observer quipped, Sunday may be the Lord’s Day everywhere else in Christendom, but apparently not in the Vatican legal system.)

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