Honduran Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, who is facing allegations of financial mismanagement, said Pope Francis has called him to express his full support for the prelate.
Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the C9 Council of Cardinals which advises the pope on the reform of the Vatican curia, spoke about Francis’s phone call during an interview on Suyapa TV, a Catholic television station in Honduras.
“I’m sorry for all the evil they have done against you, but do not you worry,” Maradiaga said the pontiff told him, adding he replied, “Holiness, I am at peace – at peace because I am with the Lord Jesus who knows everyone’s heart.”
The cardinal also said during the television interview the charges against him were “calumnious.”
A report on Maradiaga’s interview was carried on vaticannews.va, the new web portal launched by the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication last week.
Last week, the Italian news magazine L’Espresso reported that papal envoy Argentine Bishop Jorge Pedro Casaretto submitted a report to the pope suggesting Maradiaga may have been involved in mismanaging Church funds, and may also have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Catholic University of Tegucigalpa, at which he serves as Grand Chancellor.
The L’Espresso article also said some funds the cardinal invested in London-based financial companies have now vanished.
The Associated Press reported Francis has ordered a probe into the alleged irregularities, saying the Vatican Press Office has confirmed the pope’s decision.
During his interview with Suyapa TV, Maradiaga said the journalist responsible for the magazine article lacked “professional ethics” for not contacting him for his side of the story before publishing his article.
The cardinal said the money he received from the university was spent on funding works for the archdiocese, such as helping the poor, providing healthcare, and supporting priests in rural parishes.
Moreover, he said the “false scandal” was really an attack on the pope by “those who do not want the Curia reformed.”
The report came just a week before the cardinal’s 75th birthday on Dec. 29, when he is required to submit his resignation to the pope.
Maradiaga said he would be equally happy if Francis accepted or rejected it.
“I have been a bishop for 39 years, and for 25 years Archbishop of Tegucigalpa. The possibility of retiring in peace does tempt me,” the cardinal said.