15 March 2016
Christopher Lamb in Rome
Vatileaks priest 'was not lucid' when he passed documents to press
A priest has admitted giving confidential financial documents of the Holy See to journalists, but claimed he was not “fully lucid” when doing so.
Monsignor Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda, who had sat on a top level papal commission overhauling Vatican finances and administration, was giving evidence in the so-called Vatileaks trial of five people, including two journalists.
The defendants, who face up to eight years in jail, are accused of breaking a Vatican law created by Pope Francis in 2013 criminalising leaking.
“Yes, I passed documents,” Mgr Vallejo Balda said under questioning yesterday. “I did it spontaneously, probably not fully lucid.”
He admitted to passing material to both Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi who both wrote books based on the documents, which revealed widespread financial mismanagement in the Vatican.
The 54-year-old Spanish priest said he gave Nuzzi - who made waves with the first Vatileaks scandal in 2012 - a five-page list of some 87 passwords to access the reform commission’s password-protected emails.
The priest claimed, however, that he was convinced Nuzzi already had access to the material.
Mgr Vallejo Balda also said he was under pressure from fellow defendant and member of the commission, Francesca Chaouqui, a 34-year-old PR expert.
He explained that he felt under pressure from Chaouqui who at one time he had been close to. He said he had felt “compromised” after she had once entered his hotel room in Florence. The relationship, however, turned sour and Mgr Vallejo Balda said she and her husband had sent him threatening text messages especially after the reform commission ended in 2015 and Chaouqui was left without work.
The priest said he believed Chaouqui mingled in a “dangerous world” of Italian power brokers; that she repeatedly told him she worked for Italy’s secret services and once claimed to be arranging a meeting for US President Barack Obama.
He added that when he cut contact with her felt that his “physical safety was in danger.”
Mgr Vallejo Balda has been remanded in a Vatican prison cell after he breached conditions of his house arrest by communicating with the outside world.
The court also heard that Chaouqui, who is seven months pregnant, has written to the Pope asking to be dispensed from the pontifical secret, which prevents the disclosure of some information about the Church, in order to defend herself. The court, however, did not authorise the reading of the letter due to a lack of response from the recipient.
Questioning of the accused continues today with further hearings scheduled on the afternoons of Friday, March 18; Monday, March 21 and the morning of Tuesday, March 22.
The trial is expected to continue until after Easter.
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