VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A former consultant to a pontifical commission vehemently denied giving private documents regarding the Vatican’s financial reform to two journalists.
Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, replied, “absolutely not” when asked by a Vatican prosecutor if she gave documentation to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi.
She also denied having had a sexual relationship with Spanish Msgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda, the secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
The trial resumed April 6 after the court granted Chaouqui, who is pregnant, a three-week postponement after her doctor recommended 20 days of bed rest.
Chaouqui is on trial along with Msgr. Vallejo Balda, Nicola Maio, the monsignor’s former assistant; and two journalists: Nuzzi, author of “Merchants in the Temple,” and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of “Avarice.”
The monsignor, Chaouqui and Maio were accused of “committing several illegal acts of divulging news and documents concerning fundamental interests of the Holy See and (Vatican City) State.” Nuzzi and Fittipaldi were accused of “soliciting and exercising pressure, especially on (Msgr.) Vallejo Balda, in order to obtain confidential documents and news.”
Prior to taking her turn on the stand, Chaouqui posted on her Facebook page that despite doctor’s advice that she refrain from “subjecting herself to the physical and mental stress of the trial,” she looked forward to having her day in court and “finally being able to speak.”
“Today is the day of truth. The day I owe to Pope Francis, to my church, to my family, to the whole world,” she wrote.
Repeatedly throughout her testimony, Chaouqui strayed from giving direct answers to the prosecutors’ questions, saying that she wished to address rumors and news reports.
At various moments, she was reminded by Judge Giuseppe della Torre that the witness stand was not a “theater stage” and to respond only to the questions.
Responding to her contention that her testimony was her only opportunity to defend herself from various media reports, the judge assured her of the court’s impartiality.
Chaouqui testified that she simply introduced Msgr. Vallejo Balda to Nuzzi, a journalist she “held in high esteem.” She said that any leaked information on the commission’s work was provided by the Spanish monsignor and that Nuzzi never asked her questions on her role, access to documents or for information.
Regarding reports of an improper relationship, Chaouqui denied the allegations, adding that over time she shared a close friendship with the Spanish monsignor resulting in him confiding personal secrets.
She said that although Msgr. Vallejo Balda alluded falsely that they shared an intimate moment, she would still not divulge what was said in private.
“The (priestly) habit he still wears has value,” she said.
On the trial’s second day of testimony March 15, Msgr. Vallejo Balda testified that he felt he was being threatened by Chaouqui and had little choice but to give confidential documents to the two Italian reporters.
Testifying that he knew Chaouqui and Nuzzi were friends, the Spanish monsignor said he gave the documents to Nuzzi in order to win his trust and stave off any threat Chaouqui posed to him. “For me, giving those documents was a way to pay for my freedom,” he said.
Msgr. Vallejo Balda cited a Whatsapp conversation in which Chaouqui told him: “I will destroy you in all the newspapers and you know that I can do it.”
“If that isn’t a concrete threat, (I don’t know what is),” Msgr. Vallejo Balda told the court.
When asked about that conversation April 6, Chaouqui said she sent the message out of anger after a friend told her Msgr. Vallejo Balda was speaking ill of her and not because she wished to “extort something” from him.
“What would I want to extort from him? If a mouse approached him, he would have given it the documents,” she said.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Saint’s relics found in rubble of church destroyed by terrorists
NEXT: Pope to visit Lesbos with Orthodox to highlight plight of refugees
Share this story