Cardinal denies corruption allegations

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VATICAN CITY — A cardinal under investigation in a sprawling corruption scandal denied wrongdoing and insisted yesterday that he acted for the good of the church while handling real estate transactions for the Vatican office that funds missionary work abroad.

Naples Cardinal Crecenzio Sepe said he forgave his accusers and was going ahead serenely while accepting the “cross’’ that the investigation had brought on him.

Prosecutors are trying to untangle an alleged web of kickbacks involving billions of dollars worth of contracts for such megaprojects as preparing 2000 Holy Year events in Rome, the 2009 Group of Eight summit, and rebuilding the earthquake-shattered town of L’Aquila.

Sepe’s real estate transactions at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples are under scrutiny because they involved some of the key figures implicated in the inquiry, including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s disaster chief, Guido Bertolaso.

“I’m going forward with serenity; I accept the cross and I forgive, from the depth of my heart, those who have wanted to strike at me from both inside and outside the church,’’ Sepe said in a letter read aloud at a news conference and posted on the Naples diocesan website.

In the letter, Sepe denied point by point the three main accusations against him concerning his 2001-2006 tenure at the congregation and three real estate transactions involving the sale, renovation, and renting of congregation-owned properties.