The Vatican has formally charged five people in connection with leaking and sharing documents concerning the Holy See’s finances.
Three former Vatican officials and two journalists, who wrote books based on the documents, will face trial with the first hearing due to take place on Tuesday.
Those charged include the journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi, the author of Merchants in the Temple, and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who wrote Avarice.
Also facing trial are Mgr Lucio Vallejo Balda, his secretary Nicola Maio and Francesca Chaouqui, a financial public relations expert.
Mgr Balda and Chaouqui both served on a commission set up in 2013 by Pope Francis tasked with overhauling Vatican finances.
Gianluigi Nuzzi, who wrote Merchants in the Temple, is one of five people charged in connection with leaking documents from the Vatican (PA)
Nuzzi and Fittipaldi’s books are both based on documents relating to that commission which reveal financial mismanagement and opposition by elements of the Roman Curia to Francis’ reforms.
A statement from the Vatican today said the accused were being charged under law no.IX of the Vatican’s criminal code, a piece of legislation the Pope instituted in 2013.
It said they will appear in front of a bench of four judges led by Professor Giuseppe Dalla Torre and if they choose not to attend they will be tried in absentia.
Nuzzi has so far refused to co-operate with the legal proceedings against him while Fittipaldi appeared in front of prosecutors but refused to answer questions. An extradition agreement exists between the Vatican and Italy but it is not clear if it would be enforced in this case.
The law under which the five are being charged states that: “whoever illicitly obtains or reveals information or documents whose disclosure is forbidden, is punished with six months to two years imprisonment or with a fine ranging from €1,000 to €5,000.
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"If the object of the offence consists of information or documents concerning the fundamental interests or the diplomatic relations of the Holy See or the State, the penalty shall be of four to eight years imprisonment.
"If the conduct referred to in the preceding paragraph is committed due to criminal negligence, the penalty shall be of six months to two years imprisonment.”
In 2012 Nuzzi reported confidential Vatican documents that were leaked by Paolo Gabriele, Benedict XVI’s butler.
Gabriele was tried and convicted for theft and sentenced to 18 months in prison. After just over two months of serving his sentence Gabriele was visited and pardoned by Benedict XVI.