Protagonist in Vatican leaks scandal leaks more in new book
ROME (AP) — The most colorful protagonist in the Vatican’s leaks scandal — an ambitious, name-dropping communications consultant — has emerged from a bruising trial with a baby, a business and a book describing the behind-the-scenes drama of Pope Francis’ reform efforts.
“In the Name of Peter” hits Italian bookstores Tuesday, seven months after author Francesca Chaouqui received a 10-month suspended sentence for conspiring to pass confidential documents onto two journalists.
In an interview Monday, Chaouqui called the book her “testament of truth” and said she doesn’t fear a possible new Vatican trial for publishing confidential Holy See documents in her book.
“I’m ready to defend myself in Italy with all the strength that I have,” she told The Associated Press in an interview at a downtown Roman hotel. “I’m not the same person who went (to the Vatican) like an obedient puppy who they put on trial.”
Chaouqui was the lone woman on an eight-member papal reform commission tasked with compiling information about the Vatican’s vast financial holdings and recommending ways to improve efficiency and transparency.
In the book, Chaouqui recounts the commission’s utter dysfunction, as members went their own ways and angled for prominence with Vatican authorities behind each other’s backs. She reproduces emails and previously unpublished documents, audits and proposals for financial reform.
“It tells how the commission, in reality, failed in its mission,” Chaouqui said. “In reality, it created an enormous chaos, enormous.”
Three of the commission members ended up with continued Vatican roles; Chaouqui and two others ended up on trial.
The Vatican accused Chaouqui; Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, and Vallejo’s assistant of conspiring to leak confidential documents from the commission’s work to two journalists. The journalists, Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, also were put on trial, accused of breaking Vatican law by publishing confidential information.
Fittipaldi and Nuzzi wrote two blockbuster books that exposed the greed of bishops and cardinals angling for huge apartments, the extraordinarily high costs of getting a saint made, and the loss to the Holy See of millions of euros in rental income because of undervalued real estate.
In July, the Vatican court declared it had no jurisdiction to prosecute the journalists, but it convicted Chaouqui and Vallejo of conspiracy, while absolving the assistant. Vallejo was sentenced to 18 months in prison, though Francis ordered him freed just before Christmas.
As the trial neared its end, Chaouqui gave birth to baby Pietro, who now vies for her attention along with her consulting firm, the book and another book in the works. She insists “In the Name of Pietro” isn’t meant to hurt the church, but to tell the truth and “make order” out of the chaos that her life became at the center of Vatican intrigue.
Asked Monday about Chaouqui’s book, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said, “We’re not losing sleep over it.”
“As for the suspended sentence, let’s not anticipate the work of the competent authorities,” he added in an email.
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