Vatican cardinal says ouster deprived him of possible papacy

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FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 25, 2020 file photo, Cardinal Angelo Becciu looks down as he meets the media during a press conference in Rome. The Vatican cardinal sacked by Pope Francis amid a corruption investigation is fighting back, suing an Italian newsmagazine and claiming that his ouster has deprived him of the chance of being pope and will undermine the legitimacy of a future papal election. Cardinal Angelo Becciu is seeking 10 million euros in damages, to be given to charity, in a complaint filed in the Sassari, Sardinia tribunal against LEspresso, the weekly magazine of Italys La Repubblica daily. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

ROME – The Vatican cardinal sacked by Pope Francis amid a corruption investigation is suing an Italian news magazine, claiming that his ruined reputation has eliminated his chances of becoming pope and will undermine the legitimacy of any future papal election.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu is seeking 10 million euros ($11.9 million) in damages, to be given to charity, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the Sassari, Sardinia tribunal against L’Espresso magazine, the weekly affiliated with Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.

The 74-page complaint raises questions about the conduct of Vatican criminal prosecutors, suggesting they leaked information to L’Espresso as they sought to build a corruption case around the Holy See’s 350 million-euro ($416 million) investment in a London real estate venture.

To date, Becciu has not been under investigation in that case or any other, he said in a statement announcing the lawsuit's filing.

Becciu resigned Sept. 24 as the prefect of the Vatican’s saint-making office after Francis presented him with allegations he had sent some 100,000 euros ($119,000) in Holy See funds to a Sardinian charity controlled by his brother. Becciu admitted he sent the funds to the charity- not his brother - and told reporters he had done nothing wrong.

Becciu at the time of the transfer was the No. 2 in the Vatican secretariat of state, and enjoyed full authority to manage the department’s substantial asset portfolio, including using it for charitable donations.

In his legal complaint, Becciu claimed that his ouster was a coordinated hit job with L’Espresso, which broke the story of the payment to his brother in a story that went to the printers Sept. 24.

The complaint alleges Francis had a copy of the magazine's article on his desk during the Sept. 24 meeting at which he sacked Becciu, suggesting an internal leak of the article to the Vatican. The L'Espresso's publisher has said some early editions “disappeared” from the printer that night and ended up on the pope’s desk.