ROME—A Vatican trial focusing on leaks of confidential documents on Church finances resumed on Wednesday, with a former lay consultant to a papal commission, Italian PR expert Francesca Chaouqui, denying any wrongdoing.
During five hours of testimony, Chaouqui, who’s seven months pregnant, said that she never gave confidential information to two Italian journalists currently facing criminal charges along with her and a Spanish cleric.
“Never, never,” Chaouqui testified. “I can assure you that no reserved documents ever passed from my hands.”
She also told Vatican judges that Spanish Monsignor Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda had been the one to share the information, after he was turned down for a promotion.
Both Chaouqui and Vallejo were members of a now-dismantled commission created by Pope Francis in 2013 to lay the groundwork for a sweeping reform of the Vatican’s financial operations.
The Vatican has pressed charges against both Chaouqui and Vallejo Balda, together with Vallejo’s secretary, Italian layman Nicola Maio, accusing them of forming a “criminal organization” that provided confidential documents to Italian journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who in turn wrote two books revealing detailed information on the Vatican’s financial mismanagements.
Prosecutors have accused Nuzzi and Fittipaldi of “soliciting and exerting pressure” on Vallejo to obtain the documents and of publishing them. The monsignor, who testified 20 days ago, has already admitted to being the source for their information.
“Yes, I passed documents,” he said on March 15. “I did it spontaneously, probably not fully lucid.”
“I was convinced I was in a situation without exit,” he said, claiming he was subject to pressures exerted not by the journalists but by Chaouqui, who introduced Vallejo to Nuzzi and Fittipaldi.
All five defendants face up to eight years in prison if convicted.
Chaouqui told the tribunal that Vallejo had “spontaneously” given Nuzzi the password to his email, a move that prosecutors say gave the journalist access to a wealth of confidential information.
“Vallejo had this need to explain how important his work was,” she said. “Vallejo was never in any way forced by a journalist as far as I know.”
While on the stand this Wednesday, she defended her work on the study commission empaneled by Pope Francis in 2013, known by its Italian acronym COSEA.
Chaouqui cited an “extremely serious event” from May of 2014, but said she couldn’t give any details since she had promised the pope she wouldn’t do so. This event, she said, was something the commission looked into at the request of Francis and Spanish Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, a member of the team overseeing the Vatican bank.
Speaking of Vallejo, she also said that his demise began when he failed to secure a position at the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, created by Francis in 2014 in keeping with the recommendations submitted by COSEA.
She spoke about an alleged intimate night she and Vallejo shared in a hotel in Florence, in northern Italy. Chaouqui said nothing had happened between the two, but that he’d shared information of his sex life, “while his mother was asleep in the room.”
She didn’t reveal any other details of their conversation, out of respect for what she described as his “clerical state.”
According to her testimony, after not getting the job Vallejo began spending his time with an astrologer she had introduced him to, often becoming drunk and frequenting women.
Chaouqui defended Maio, saying that he had “never subtracted documents.”
The trial will resume on Monday.