Vatican City, May 23, 2014 / 00:24 am
A Vatican official has revealed that Pope Francis was displeased by an extravagant banquet at a Vatican office during the recent canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, Italian media are reporting.
"I can't reveal what he said (the Pope). I informed him about it and I can only say that he was not pleased, so to speak. But I can assure you that these incidents will not happen again," said Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Vatican Prefecture for Economic Affairs, during an interview on the Italia 1 television network.
Photos of the event appear to depict some 150 guests – including businessmen, journalists and some Italian religious – gathered on the veranda of the Vatican Prefecture for Economic Affairs during the April 27 canonization ceremony for a VIP banquet that reportedly cost private sponsors nearly $25,000.
Cardinal Versaldi said he was not aware of the celebration on the veranda of the prefecture and the he had only granted permission for a few people to have access to view the canonization ceremony.
Photos of the party published on the website Dagospia appear to show numerous guests including well-known Italian journalists such as Bruno Vespa, Maria Latella and Marco Carrai, who is a close collaborator of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, as well as the president of the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works, Ernst von Freyberg.
According to L'Espresso, the Pope was also displeased at how Communion was distributed on the balcony during the Mass using a regular glass cup instead of a ciborium or paten.
The photos appear to show Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the prefecture and member of the commission charged with overseeing the Holy See's economic and administrative bodies, distributing Holy Communion to attendees at the banquet.
"I'm not talking about the veranda," Msgr. Vallejo Balda said in response to questions about the banquet. "Thank God we have other problems."
L'Espresso said that in the wake of Pope Francis' displeasure, officials are seeking to determine who was responsible for the event, which was held on one of the verandas at the Vatican while thousands spent the night waiting to attend the ceremony.
"Like many of you, I was also surprised and outraged by this. I have immediately begun the search for an explanation, which is still in progress, and I have informed all of the chief authorities in order to try to find the person responsible for all of this, which clashes with the spirit of a canonization and especially with the style Pope Francis wanted for this celebration, one of sobriety and participation by the people," Cardinal Versaldi said.
L'Espresso claims the "host" and "organizer" of the banquet was Francesca Chaouqui, an Italian woman who also sits on the Vatican financial oversight commission.
The magazine also published what it said was the invitation to the event sent on behalf of the prefecture, which includes the names of the banquet's two sponsors, identified as Assidai – the medical insurance company used by many executives - and Italian petroleum giant Medoilgas.
The report included messages allegedly from Chaouqui thanking the sponsors for the collaboration.
Chaouqui said she was not the organizer of the banquet and that the report by L'Espresso was an attempt to "discredit her" before the Pope.
From the outset of his pontificate, Pope Francis has often stressed the need for austerity and has voiced his concern for the poor and those most in need, always fostering a culture of global solidarity.