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Second Vatican official says pope authorizes nun to pay ransom

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Pope Francis has authorized a ransom payment of hundreds of thousands of euros to try to free a nun kidnapped in Mali by al Qaeda-linked militants, another senior Holy See official told a Vatican court on Friday.

Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, the number three in the Holy See, told the Vatican court that he sought and received Francis’ approval for the transfer shortly after he assumed a “substitute” post at the Secretariat of State in late 2018.

Penapala answered questions for a second day in a row on Friday after being summoned by defense attorneys representing 10 people on trial for a string of alleged financial crimes.

One tangent to the Vatican trial involved the wire transfer of 575,000 euros from a Swiss bank account at the Vatican to a Slovenian front company owned by Cecilia Malonia, a self-styled security analyst, in 2016. Hired by Penapala’s predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, as an outside advisor.

Becciu told the court last year that he had sought Marogna’s advice in 2017 after the kidnapping of nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which funds its insurgency by kidnapping Westerners.

While she was held in Mali, the group regularly showed Narvaez videos, pleading for help from the Vatican.

Becciu told the court that Francis had authorized spending up to 1 million euros to free the Colombian nun. Becciu said he and Marogna traveled to London to meet with British security firm Inkerman, which they then hired to find Narvaez and secure her freedom. She was eventually released in October 2021.

In their prosecution request, prosecutors allege double payments: They say around £500,000, or the equivalent of 575,000 euros at the time, was sent to Inkerman’s Barklays bank account for the operation.

Separately, they list nine payments totaling €575,000 sent from Vatican Swiss Bank accounts to Marogna’s Logsic DOO company between December 20, 2018, and July 8, 2019. Prosecutors, citing Slovenian bank records, said Marogna used the money to buy high-end luxury items and go on vacation.

Both Becciu and Marogna have been accused of embezzlement, which they both deny.

Pena Parra, who replaced Becciu as a “substitute”, told the court that his deputy, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, had asked him to make the payment to the Slovenian account that Becciu had asked to handle the wire transfer. But Pena Parra said he could not proceed without the pope’s approval first.

“I went to the Pope. I asked for a meeting and the Holy Father confirmed to me where the money was going, it was for the possible freedom of the Colombian nuns kidnapped in Mali,” said Penapala, president of the court Giuseppe Pi. said under the questioning of Judge Niatun.

For his part, Becciu insisted on voluntarily declaring to the court Friday that Francis had approved the surgery, and was prepared to write a statement of defense for Becciu when he spoke by phone on July 19, 2021, days before trial to open.

Prosecutors recently produced letters between Becciu and Francis over the next few days, in which Francis declined to provide a statement. Becciu produced a letter on Friday indicating that Francis himself had asked Becciu for a draft statement, which the cardinal said he appeared to have been guided by in his subsequent refusal to sign.

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