Italian cardinal denies corruption in property deals

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe.
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe.


Stating that he has acted with “maximum transparency,” Archbishop of Naples Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe has said he will cooperate with authorities after being accused of corruption in a property deal. A Vatican spokesman has expressed “solidarity” with the prelate, saying he hopes the situation will be “rapidly clarified.”

The cardinal, who previously headed the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is accused of colluding with former Italian transport minister Pietro Lunardi to offer cut-price property deals, the BBC reports.

Lunardi bought a building in Rome from Cardinal Sepe’s Congregation in 2004, allegedly at a price noticeably below market value.

Cardinal Sepe said he will cooperate with the investigation despite his immunity as a Vatican diplomatic passport holder.

At a Sunday press conference Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi commented on the accusation, expressing his “esteem and solidarity” with the cardinal at “this difficult time.” He said Cardinal Sepe continues to work for the Church and the people entrusted to him “in an intense and generous manner, and as such has the right to be respected and esteemed.”

“We all hope and trust that the situation will be fully and rapidly clarified, so as to eliminate all shadow of doubt regarding both him personally and Church institutions,” continued the spokesman, repeating the cardinal’s pledge to collaborate with investigators.

Fr. Lombardi also noted the “procedural aspects” concerning proper relations between the Holy See and Italy will “naturally” have to be taken into account if they are relevant to the case.

On Monday Cardinal Sepe read a letter to the Catholics of his archdiocese at a press conference. He said that he was sure of the Vatican’s support.

"I'm going forward with serenity; I accept the cross and I forgive, from the depth of my heart, those who have wanted to strike at me from both inside and outside the Church," the cardinal wrote.

"I have acted with the maximum transparency," he continued, saying all of his budgets were approved annually by the Vatican’s secretariat of state.

"I say this for the love of truth, knowing well that I always acted according to conscience and with the good of the Church as my sole objective."

In his letter the prelate denied the three main accusations against him involving the sale, renovation and renting of congregation properties in three real estate transactions, the Associated Press reports.

He also tried to dispel suggestions that he had been demoted to the archbishopric of Naples after serving in charge of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. According to the cardinal, when Pope Benedict asked him what he thought about moving to Naples he agreed and said he wanted to serve his remaining years among the faithful.

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