In a rather unusual development, police in the Vatican have arrested two people for leaking confidential documents, the tiny Catholic theocracy announced Monday. One of the people arrested is a person who was previously best-known as the country’s “sex symbol.”
Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallegjo Balda, a priest, and Francesca Chaouqui, an independent PR consultant, were both members of a 2013 commission established by Pope Francis to improve Vatican finances and reduce corruption. The Vatican says it arrested both over the weekend, but released Chaouqui after she cooperated with investigators. Balda remains in custody.
Pope Francis criminalized confidentiality violations in 2013, and sentences carry a punishment of up to two years in prison. Those imprisoned by the Vatican are held in Italian prisons.
The arrests come shortly before the release of two books by Italian journalists that are expected to showcase extensive corruption within the Holy See. The two books, “Avarice” by Emiliano Fittipaldi and “Merchants in the Temple” by Gianluigi Nuzzi, are both being released Thursday, and with the arrests the Vatican is indicating that any new leaks within them can likely be traced to Balda and Chaouqui. Nuzzi in particular has an extensive history of embarrassing the Vatican with leaks, and was at the center of the 2012 “Vatileaks” scandal that troubled the final days of Pope Benedict XVI’s tenure.
The new books are expected to show significant friction between Francis and bureaucratic forces within the Vatican, both in the realm of finances and transparency and in the realm of church doctrine.
But Vatican officials say the books are little more than scandal-mongering.
“Publications of this kind do not contribute in any way to the establishment of clarity and truth, but rather to the creation of confusion and partial and tendentious interpretations,” the Vatican said of the books in its statement announcing the arrests. “We must absolutely avoid the mistake of thinking that this is a way to help the mission of the Pope.” The Vatican characterized the document leaks not only as unlawful, but as a “serious betrayal” of Pope Francis.
The newest incident is actually only the most recent to involve Chaouqui. In 2013, she attracted media attentions after Twitter posts linked to her falsely claimed Pope Benedict had leukemia and accused another Vatican official of being gay (Chaouqui says the tweets were forged). She was also labeled a Vatican “sex symbol” for her glamorous appearance as well as risque photos featuring her and her husband that were posted online.
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