Catholic church dragged into public works scandal that has sent shockwaves through Italian government
Tom Kington in RomeSun 20 Jun 2010 22.24 BST
A senior Vatican cardinal is under investigation for corruption, dragging the Catholic church into a public works scandal that has sent shockwaves through the Italian government.
Italian media reported today that Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop of Naples, was suspected of striking cosy deals while head of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Vatican congregation that uses proceeds from a property empire including 2,000 Rome apartments to fund missionary efforts.
Sepe allegedly oversaw the sale in 2004 of a building in Rome to the then transport minister, Pietro Lunardi, for the suspiciously low price of €4.16m, newspapers reported, adding that magistrates wanted to know why Lunardi then freed up €2.5m in state funding the following year for the congregation to create a museum in its headquarters, and why that museum never opened.
Lunardi, who is also under investigation, said he would contact the magistrates looking into the deal “as soon as possible… to clear everything up”.
Sepe gave a fiery homily today in Naples, asking his congregation: “How many martyrs are there, even today, who in the name of the truth… are tortured, humiliated and disrespected?”
Magistrates are reportedly looking into Sepe’s links to builder Diego Anemone and former public works official Angelo Balducci, both suspected of being at the centre of a web of alleged kickbacks and corrupt state construction contracting.
Italy’s industry minister, Claudio Scajola, has already resigned after claims that Anemone paid €900,000 to subsidise the purchase of his luxury Rome flat.
Newspapers said magistrates suspected Sepe and Anemone were involved in furnishing accommodation on Rome’s Via Giulia to Guido Bertolaso, Italy’s powerful civil protection chief.
The case has shed light on the links between Roman politics and the Vatican.
Balducci was a papal usher but was dismissed when the corruption inquiry brought to light his suspected involvement with a Vatican chorister in a male prostitution ring. The Vatican said it hoped the investigation could be wrapped up fast “to eliminate any shadows, be they on the person [Sepe] or church institutions”.