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Vatican probes, Bertone denies

March 31, 2016

The Vatican has begun a probe against two ex-managers accused of diverting funds from a children's hospital to renovate a Rome penthouse. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's lawyer says he never asked for the luxury refit.

Kardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Image: picture-alliance/ROPI/Frustaci/Eidon

The Italian magazine L'Espresso's report that a church probe was proceeding against the two former hospital managers was confirmed in part on Thursday by Vatican deputy spokesman Greg Burke.

Without elaborating, Burke said former chairman Giuseppe Profiti and former treasurer Massimo Spino were "under investigation."

L'Espresso said the renovations had cost 422,000 euros ($480,000), rather than the 200,000 reported previously.

Burke did not confirmed the magazine's specific claim that the ex-managers of the Vatican-owned clinic, Ospedale Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus in Italian), were suspected of embezzling and misusing funds.

Pope Francis, who has sought to clean up Vatican finances, removed Bertone from his post as Vatican second-in-command in 2013, shortly after the Argentine pontiff was elected to succeed the now-retired Benedict XVI.

The magazine article's author, Emiliano Fittipaldi, had published a book last November that included the allegation that money intended for sick children was spent on Bertone's flat.

Papst Franziskus
Unraveling church finances, Francis' goalImage: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Carconi

On Thursday, via his lawyer, Bertone (pictured above, right) said he had paid for the renovation himself and never asked for money from the clinic, which describes itself as one of Europe's largest pediatric hospital and research centers.

'Vatileaks 2' scandal and trial

Last December, the clinic's President Mariella Enoc said Bertone was donating 150,000 euros for research on orphan diseases.

Fittipaldi's book "Avarice," and the book of another journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, became the focus of what media dubbed the "Vatileaks 2" scandal.

The journalists were put on trial before a Vatican court over disclosure of documents from a Vatican financial reform committee. The trial is currently suspended due to the ill health of one of three Vatican officials who were also charged.

Rooms with a view

Bertone's stint under Benedict was highly divisive. Critics accused him of being too authoritarian and connected with sleazy Italian politics. Bertone blamed "moles and vipers" for his downfall.

The 300-square-meter attic apartment occupied by Bertone boasts a large terrace with views over Rome. Bertone has insisted that he shares the quarters overlooking Rome's Palazzo San Carlo with three nuns, who look after him, and his private secretary.

ipj/rc (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)