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Cardinal Allegedly Linked To Vatican Real Estate Scandal Resigns

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, until recently a high-ranking official in the Roman Catholic Church, has suddenly resigned from his position and renounced his rights as a cardinal amid a scandal involving a commercial real estate deal in London.

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City

Becciu has been allegedly tied, at least indirectly, to the London real estate scandal that lost the Vatican millions of euros, the AP reports. Becciu had previously denied all allegations of wrongdoing in the case and, in an unusual press conference on Friday, again denied that he had done anything wrong or that his resignation had anything to do with the deal.

“Out of a spirit of obedience and out of love for the church and the pope, I accepted his request to step aside,” he said during the conference, as reported by the Catholic News Agency. “But I am innocent and I will prove it."

Becciu had previously been "sostituto," or second in command, for the secretary of state at the Vatican. In that capacity, he allegedly authorized the purchase of 60 Sloane Avenue in London for about $200M.

The money allegedly came from Peter's Pence, the pope's annual collection that goes toward Catholic charitable projects around the world, not real estate investments. Also, the investment allegedly lost millions of dollars to the enrichment of middlemen who facilitated the deal.

Previously, the Vatican had initiated an investigation of some of its officials in connection with the deal, including raids on the home and office of Alberto Perlasca, a senior official in the administrative department of the Vatican’s secretary of state.

60 Sloane Avenue, an office building in the affluent Chelsea district, had been scheduled to be converted to luxury apartments. An investor acquired the property in 2012, and a company controlled by the Vatican bought a partial stake in it in 2014, valuing the property at more than three times what it traded for only two years earlier. 

In 2018, the Vatican bought the remaining interest in the property, and when it tried to refinance the debt associated with the building — still an office building, as no conversion had been done — that triggered an investigation by the Holy See.

On Thursday, the Vatican announced through its press office a one-line statement that Pope Francis had accepted Becciu's resignation as "Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights connected with the Cardinalate." The statement didn't give any reasons for the cardinal's departure. 

The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints is the part of the Roman Curia that oversees the elaborate process of the canonization of saints.