Vatican indicts 5 in case of leaked church documents

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VATICAN CITY >> A Vatican judge on Saturday indicted five people, including two journalists and a high-ranking Vatican monsignor, in the latest scandal involving leaked documents that informed two books alleging financial malfeasance in the Roman Catholic Church bureaucracy.

Two members of the pope's reforms commission and a newly identified assistant were indicted on charges of disclosing confidential Vatican information and documents, while two journalists were indicted on a charge of soliciting and exerting pressure to obtain the information, according to the indictments released by the Vatican on Saturday.

Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda and Francesca Chaouqui were arrested by the Vatican earlier this month; Balda is being held while Chaouqui was released after agreeing to cooperate with the investigation. The indictment also identifies for first time an assistant to Balda, Nicola Maio, as under suspicion.

The three Vatican insiders also face an additional charge of forming a criminal organization.

Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi both published books this month recounting instances of greed and financial abuse at the Vatican, citing Vatican documents.

Nuzzi, who refused a Vatican summons for questioning, was defiant in a message on Twitter. "You can do what you want but as long as the world exists, there will be journalists who report uncomfortable news," he wrote.

Fittipaldi appeared for questioning but refused to give any answers, citing Italian law on protecting sources.

If the Vatican tribunal ultimately convicts the two authors, it will come down to a political question as to whether the Holy See will request their extradition from Italy — and whether Italy will oblige.

Trial is set to begin on Tuesday. The trial will be open to the press, as was the case previously in the case of documents leaked during the papacy of Benedict XVI. After formalities on Tuesday, the trial is expected to resume the following week.


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