Pope Francis said Saturday that Vatican trials for cases of grave financial mismanagement have become unavoidable in recent years.
“The problem is not the trials, but the facts and conduct that determine them and make them painfully necessary,” the pope told a group of Vatican magistrates on Feb. 25.
“In fact,” he added, “such behaviors by members of the Church seriously harm its effectiveness in reflecting divine light.”
Pope Francis addressed the Vatican’s recent legal disputes in a speech to members of the city state’s tribunals for the opening of its 94th judicial year.
The Vatican is in the midst of a trial to prosecute 10 people, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, on charges related to the institution’s finances. The trial, which began in July 2021, is expected to conclude before the end of the year.
The trial centers on the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a London building, a controversial investment that lost the Vatican hundreds of thousands of euros. It also marks the first time a cardinal has been tried by a Vatican court of lay judges.
In January, a Vatican court also held a preliminary hearing for a lawsuit by former Vatican auditor Libero Milone, who claims he was wrongly forced out of his job in 2017.
The Vatican City State tribunals “play a valuable role for the benefit of the Holy See when it comes to settling disputes of a civil or criminal nature,” Pope Francis said, emphasizing the importance of justice for promoting peace.
He added that in recent years, legal disputes and trials at the Vatican have increased, as has the seriousness of the conduct behind the legal processes, especially in the management of Vatican assets and finances.
The pope also spoke about the virtue of justice.
Justice “is not just the fruit of a set of rules to be applied with technical expertise, but it is the virtue whereby we give each person his due, which is indispensable for the proper functioning of every sphere of common life and for everyone to lead a peaceful life,” he said.
“Any commitment to peace implies and requires a commitment to justice,” he said. “Peace without justice is not true peace; it has no solid foundation or possibility for the future.”
Francis said the virtue of justice has to be cultivated through personal conversion and exercised with the other cardinal virtues of prudence, fortitude, and temperance.
He also urged the Vatican magistrates to exercise an attitude of mercy and compassion toward the accused.
The test of being on trial, the pope said, “is sometimes necessary, when it comes to ascertaining conduct that tarnishes the face of the Church and arouses scandal in the community of the faithful.”
“Mercy and justice are not alternatives but walk together, proceeding in balance toward the same end, for mercy is not the suspension of justice but its fulfillment,” he said.
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