The opening proceedings for the 'VatiLeaks' case are seen in a Vatican courtroom Nov. 24, 2015. CNS photo/Courtesay L'Osservatore Romano, Reuters

Defendant in 'VatiLeaks' trial denies giving documents to reporters

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • April 12, 2016

VATICAN CITY – The man who served as executive secretary of a commission Pope Francis established to study Vatican finances said he never gave documents of any kind to Italian journalists and, in fact, met the two reporters only when he and they entered a Vatican courtroom to face charges connected to the leaking of the documents.

Nicola Maio, former executive secretary and assistant to Spanish Msgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, testified at the criminal trial in the Vatican April 11.

Maio is on trial along with the monsignor and Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, for "divulging news and documents concerning fundamental interests" of the Vatican.

In addition, the Vatican has charged two Italian journalists — Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of Merchants in the Temple, and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of Avarice, of soliciting the documents and exercising pressure on the defendants, especially Vallejo Balda.

Maio said that everything he did as secretary of the commission he did under the orders of the monsignor. He had access to many of the documents, he testified, because that was his job. And, he said, he took some documents out of the commission's temporary office in the Domus Sanctae Marthae when he was required to do so to get signatures or seals from various Vatican officials.

Asked by the Vatican prosecutor if he was subject to psychological pressure while working on the commission, Maio responded, "I was told that we were making Church history."

"Given the moment, given the place — we're at the Holy See — I was perennially subject to psychological pressure," he said. "Here Church history was being written."

The prosecutor asked if, after the commission had completed its work and Vatican entry cards had been withdrawn from the outside consultants, Chaouqui was permitted into the room where the archives of the commission were stored. Maio said she was because Vallejo Balda told him her assistance was needed to put the archives in order and ensure Pope Francis' reform of Vatican financial operations was not "sabotaged."

Maio testified that he never gave any documents to Chaouqui or to Nuzzi or Fittipaldi, adding that he met the journalists for the first time at the trial.

The defendant said he had sent e-mails from Vallejo Balda's personal address, but only when the monsignor was there to type in his personal password; Maio said he did not know the monsignor's password.

Everything he did at the commission, Maio said, was done on the direct orders of Vallejo Balda. The chain of command for the commission's work, he said, was Pope Francis, the monsignor and him.

The only way he could imagine ever questioning the monsignor's orders, Maio said, would have been "to knock on the Pope's door" and that, obviously, was impossible.

Maio also was asked if a document, dealing with a "very grave matter," existed only on paper or if there was an electronic version. The Vatican prosecutors insisted all details about the report are still covered by "pontifical secret," but Maio said he knew the report to which they referred. He testified that an electronic version existed.

He then was asked where the computer server containing the document was located and he responded that it is in the apartment of the chaplain of the Swiss Guard.

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