Pope ‘authorized hundreds of thousands’ to pay ransom for kidnapped nun
A second senior Holy See official told a Vatican court on Friday that Pope Francis had authorized the payment of hundreds of thousands of euros in ransom to try to free a nun who had been kidnapped by militants linked to Al- Qaeda in Mali.
Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, the third-highest-ranking official in the Holy See, told the court he sought and received Francis’ approval to wire the money shortly after taking office as ‘substitute’ to the Secretariat of State at the end of 2018.
Pena Parra was answering questions for a second day on Friday after being called by defense attorneys representing the ten people on trial for a host of alleged financial crimes.
A tangent to the Vatican lawsuit concerns €575,000 transferred from the Vatican’s Swiss bank account to a Slovenia-based front company owned by Cecilia Marogna, a self-proclaimed security analyst who was hired in 2016 by Pena Parra’s predecessor, Cardinal Angelo. Becciu, as an external consultant.
Becciu told the court last year that he sought advice from Marogna in 2017 following the abduction of Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which funded its insurgency by kidnapping Westerners. During its captivity in Mali, the group periodically showed Narvaez on video asking for help from the Vatican.
Becciu told the court that Francis had authorized spending up to 1 million euros to free the Colombian nun. Becciu said he and Marogna traveled to London to meet with, and then hire, British security firm Inkerman to find Narvaez and secure his freedom. She was finally released in October 2021.
In their indictment, prosecutors alleged double payment: they said some £500,000, equivalent to €575,000 at the time, was sent to Inkerman’s account at Barklays Bank for the operation. Separately, they listed nine payments from the Swiss Vatican bank account totaling €575,000 sent to Logsic DOO in Marogna from December 20, 2018 to July 8, 2019.
Citing Slovenian bank statements, prosecutors allege Marogna used the money to buy high-end luxury items and go on vacation.
Becciu and Marogna are accused of embezzlement, charges they both deny.