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ROME – Speaking on background, a Vatican source has said Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s apparent invitation to participate in a high-profile meeting of cardinals next week represents a personal gesture on the part of Pope Francis, but that it does not necessarily mean Becciu’s rights as a cardinal, stripped by the pope two years ago, are being restored.
Over the weekend Becciu made headlines for telling attendees of a small, private Mass, which he celebrated Sunday, that he is being “reinstated” by Pope Francis.
According to Italian media outlets, Becciu told congregants at Italy’s Golfo Aranci that, “On Saturday, the pope phoned me to tell me that I will be reinstated in my cardinal duties and to ask me to participate in a meeting with all the cardinals that will be held in the coming days in Rome.”
Becciu’s lawyer, Ivano Iai, made similar remarks to a local news station, saying, “An invitation has arrived from the Vatican to the consistory for the creation of new cardinals to be held August 27-30. This is the first time since September 24, 2020, that His Eminence has been summoned to a consistory. It is, in fact, a prerogative of cardinals, [but] these functions, two years ago, had been frozen by Pope Francis as a result of judicial events.”
A Vatican source said Becciu’s statement is being interpreted by insiders as an invitation to participate, but not necessarily that he is being fully reinstated.
Speaking to Crux, the Vatican source said the special rights of a cardinal “do not refer to participation in the life of the church,” as all Christians are called to such participation according to their own state and status.
In the case of cardinals, this participation “may include an invitation, sometimes personal, to participate in some meetings reserved for them,” without necessarily lifting restrictions that had been put in place.
However, since the remarks were apparently made during a private phone conversation between Becciu and Pope Francis, and since other Vatican officials therefore were not privy to the invitation, it remains unclear what exactly the pope’s intentions are with the invitation and whether Becciu might be fully reinstated sometime in the future.
Becciu, once the pope’s chief of staff and the former head of the Vatican’s department for saints, was ousted in September 2020, when Pope Francis personally demanded that he resign from both his job leading the saint’s department and from his rights and duties as a cardinal over allegations of financial misconduct.
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Although Becciu maintained his title as cardinal, he was stripped of his duties, meaning he cannot hold a position inside of the Roman Curia and he is barred from voting in a future conclave to elect a new pope.
Shortly after his ousting, Becciu was indicted in a Vatican mega-trial featuring nine other defendants for financial crimes related to a shady land deal in London that went wrong, losing the Vatican millions. Becciu, who has denied any wrongdoing, is accused of embezzlement and abuse of office.
His statement that he has apparently been reinstated has made waves given the fact that the trial is not yet over, and that there is therefore no verdict yet on Becciu’s guilt or innocence.
The Aug. 27 consistory is to be followed by two days of meetings with all the cardinals of the world to discuss Pope Francis’s recent overhaul of the Roman Curia. That could make Becciu’s presence all the more noteworthy, given that the indictment against Becciu, which marks the first time a cardinal has faced a criminal trial in the Vatican, has been touted as a benchmark in Francis’s reform campaign.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen