Vatican prosecutors seize data from St. Peter's Basilica

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press | Updated - Jun. 30, 2020 at 11:32 a.m. | Posted - Jun. 30, 2020 at 4:28 a.m.


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ROME (AP) — Vatican prosecutors have ordered the seizure of documents and computers from the administrative offices of St. Peter’s Basilica in an apparent new investigation into financial irregularities in the Holy See.

The Vatican said Tuesday that Pope Francis also named a special commissioner to run the basilica, reorganize its offices, update its statutes to comply with new Vatican norms on procurement and contracting, and to “clarify its administration.”

The Vatican said both decisions stemmed from a report from the Vatican’s auditor general. It said based on the auditor’s report, the Vatican’s criminal prosecutors authorized the seizure Tuesday of documentation and computers from the “Fabbrica di San Pietro,” the offices that manage the pope's basilica.

The Vatican provided no details about what the auditor flagged or the specific problems the extraordinary commissioner has been tasked with fixing. The commissioner, Bishop Mario Giordana, previously conducted an investigation into financial irregularities within the Sistine Chapel Choir that led to the early retirement of the choirmaster last year.

The choir performs at all papal Masses in the basilica.

Vatican prosecutors never launched a criminal investigation into the choir administration after the Vatican's financial watchdog, the Financial Information Authority, flagged that revenue from the choir's concerts wasn't included in its income statements.

In a statement, the Vatican said the naming of Giordana followed new norms issued by Francis on June 1 to centralize the Vatican's contracting and procurement procedures in a bid to cut waste, root out corruption and update the Vatican’s financial management.

The Fabbrica is responsible for the management, cleaning and restoration of the basilica, one of the largest in the world, as well as organizing tours of its underground excavations. The present Renaissance style basilica, designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was completed in the 17th century over what tradition says was the tomb of St. Peter.

Vatican prosecutors last year launched a separate investigation into the Vatican secretariat of state’s purchase of a luxury London building amid allegations that middlemen had fleeced the Holy See out of millions of euros. No indictments have been handed down in that case, though a broker was arrested and then released earlier this month.

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Nicole Winfield

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