News Headlines > Lombardi defends Vatican justice system

11 December 2015 | by Christopher Lamb

Lombardi defends Vatican justice system

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The Vatican this week responded to criticism of its decision to proceed with the prosecution of five people, including two journalists, on allegations relating to the leaking and dissemination of private documents, writes Christopher Lamb.

Questions have also been raised about the city state’s justice system, with the five defendants assigned their own Vatican lawyer.

The Vatican guarantees fair ­trials including the presumption of innocence and the right to a defence and appeal, spokesman Fr Lombardi said at a press conference. He stressed that the Vatican’s legal procedures were entirely separate from those of Italy, where the two journalists live, and that while the Vatican lawyers had qualified in the Italian courts they had also undertaken further training – including a degree in canon law – to practise in the tribunals in the Holy See.

“It is unsurprising that a lawyer able to practise in Italy may not be able to do so in the Vatican City State, just as he or she would not be able to practise in Germany or France,” Fr Lombardi said. 

On Monday the court ruled that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, will be called as a witness during the trial, which has been dubbed Vatileaks 2 after the first Vatileaks saga which saw Benedict XVI’s butler reveal private documents. Those on trial who had been working for the Vatican include Francesca Chaouqui, a financial public relations expert; Mgr Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, former secretary of the prefecture for economic affairs; and his assistant Nicola Maio. The two journalists are Gianluigi Nuzzi, who broke the first Vatileaks story, and Emiliano Fittipaldi.

The documents that were leaked relate to a commission set up by Pope Francis to overhaul Vatican finances and administration. Both Chaouqui and Vallejo Balda sat on that 2013 commission – known as Cosea – and Nuzzi and Fittipaldi have both written books on the leaks. The trial was adjourned without a date being set for the next hearing.

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