ROME – In the penultimate hearing of the Vatican’s “trial of the century,” prosecutors presented a new declaration from Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin in which the pope’s top aide said that the Secretariat of State wants the process to go forward.

It marked the first time Parolin has been heard during the two and a half year-long trial, despite the fact that decisions in the disputed $400 million real estate transaction in London at the heart of the case were approved by Parolin on multiple occasions, often in writing.

Some observers of the trial had pointed out that although the Secretariate of State is technically the primary injured party in the case, it has not filed a complaint against any of the defendants under the Vatican’s civil law, leading some to wonder if the secretariat actually wanted the case to go forward.

In that context, assistant prosecutor Gianluca Perone read the letter from Parolin aloud during a Monday hearing dedicated to the prosecution’s final summation.

“Following the position already taken by the Secretariat of State, I confirm the request to prosecute and punish all crimes which are being acted upon at the request of parties, and of which the Secretariat of State is also considered an injured party,” Parolin’s statement read.

During her own presentation, attorney Paola Severino, representing the Secretariat of State, said that Parolin and the current sostituto, or “substitute,” Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, had been “deceived” by the defendants in the case.

The trial pivots on charges that ten defendants, including Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu in his former capacity as the pope’s chief of staff, effectively defrauded the Vatican in the London deal. Becciu also faces charges on two other fronts, one a series of transfers to a charity in his native Sardinia run by his brother, and the other money set aside at the pope’s request to ransom a kidnapped missionary nun in Mali which was funneled through an associate who, allegedly, spent some of it on luxury goods for herself.

All ten defendants have denied wrong-doing, and their attorneys have requested full acquittals.

In his summation, lead prosecutor Alessandro Diddi accused the defense lawyers of having engaged in “aggressive insults towards the Promoter of Justice,” meaning himself, calling it proof “that in many cases the defense had no other arguments than to attack us.”

Diddi also rejected due process concerns about the trial as “heresy on the juridical level,” insisting that rights of the defense had been fully honored: “The [right to] cross-examination was totally respected, all defenses were given full voice, there was never the slightest obstructionism… These are false problems,” he said.

The statements came in response to complaints from defense attorneys and other observers about the conduct of the trial, including the fact that Diddi withheld portions of certain key pieces of evidence, such as intercepted messages among defendants and other parties, and also that Pope Francis began the case with a series of ad-hoc decrees granting broad investigatory powers to Diddi without judicial review.

With regard to the papal decrees, called rescripts, Diddi said they “had the function of regulating otherwise unregulated activities” and therefore offered “a guarantee towards all those who experienced this type of activity.”

Diddi also largely dismissed defense objections to the testimony of Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, the former head of the administrative office within the Secretariat of State who avoided prosecution over the London deal by becoming a key prosecution witness.

During the course of the trial, it emerged that in preparing his written testimony for prosecutors, Perlasca had been advised by a longtime friend and confidante, Genoveffa Ciferri, who in turn relied on suggestions from Francesca Chaouqui, a former PR consultant and onetime member of a Vatican commission on financial reform who was convicted in 2016 amid the second “Vatileaks” scandal for leaking confidential documents to journalists.

Defense lawyers and many observers have suggested that since Chaouqui blamed Becciu for her problems, she may have seen Perlasca’s testimony as an opportunity for retribution.

Diddi, however, insisted that Perlasca’s contributions were not the “cornerstone” of the prosecution case, and essentially dismissed the importance of Ciferri and Chaouquiu’s own testimony, saying it was “equal to zero.”

Monday also brought closing arguments from lawyer Roberto Lipari, representing the Institute for the Works of Religion, the so-called “Vatican bank.” It was a report to Vatican prosecutors from the bank after a 2019 request for a $150 million loan from the Secretariat of State to finance part of the London deal which initially triggered the investigation.

Lipari claimed that the former president and director of the Vatican’s anti-money laundering watchdog unit, known at the time as the Financial Information Authority (AIF), had attempted to pressure the bank into approving the loan despite concerns about perceived irregularities.

Lipari claimed that ex-director Tomasso Di Ruzza knew there were problems with the London deal but pressed the bank to act anyway, while he cited the former president of AIF, Swiss lawyer Renè Brüllhart, as having told bank president Jean-Baptiste De Franssu, “Why are you being so stubborn? Give the money, and we’ll cover you.”

Defense attorneys will deliver their final statements today. The three-judge panel hearing the case is expected to deliver verdicts before the end of the week.