The allegations were made in private correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, in spring 2011 but were only recently leaked to an Italian television station.
“The allegations contained in them cannot but lead to the impression that the Governorate of Vatican City State, instead of being an instrument of responsible government, is an unreliable entity, at the mercy of dark forces,” said an official statement issued Feb. 4.
“After careful examination of the contents of the two letters, the President of the Governorate sees it as its duty to publicly declare that those assertions are the result of erroneous assessments, or fears based on unsubstantiated evidence and are even openly contradicted by the main characters invoked as witnesses.”
The statement is signed by four leading figures involved in the running of the Governorate, including the current president, Cardinal-designate Joseph Bertello, and his predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo.
The Governorate of Vatican City State is the department responsible for such things as buildings, maintenance, gardens and museums within the world’s smallest sovereign state. Archbishop Viganò was second-in-command between July 2009 and September 2011. Since October 2011 he has been the papal nuncio to the United States.
In the leaked memos, which the Vatican has confirmed are authentic, Archbishop Viganò claimed nepotism and mismanagement were rife within the city-state. In a, April 4 letter to Pope Benedict, he alleged that a small number of Italian businesses were gaining the majority of contracts and then billing the Vatican at inflated prices.
“Work was always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican,” he told the Pope.
The archbishop gave the example of the annual nativity scene that is built in St. Peter’s Square. His due diligence, he claimed, reduced the cost from $ 718,000 in 2009 to $392,000 in 2010.
He also criticized an unofficial group of Italian bankers, known as the Finance and Management Committee, who advise the Vatican City State on financial matters. In his April 4 letter he claimed their involvement “resulted more in their own interests than ours,” and explained how one recommended transaction “made us lose two and a half million dollars.”
Under the two-year tenure of Archbishop Viganò, the Governorate’s balance sheet went from running a deficit of $9.8 million in 2009 to a surplus of $28 million in 2010.
In his letters to Pope Benedict, the archbishop claimed that it was his commitment to financial probity and transparency that made him internal enemies who were seeking to push him out of the Vatican.
“Holy Father, my transfer in this moment would provoke confusion and discouragement for those who thought it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of office,” he wrote in a March 27 letter.
In his April 4 letter to the Pope, he explained how he had worked to “eliminate corruption, private interests and dysfunction that are widespread in various departments,” and that “no-one should be surprised about the press campaign against me.”
The Feb. 4 statement from the Governorate of Vatican City State offered a detailed rebuttal of the claims made by Archbishop Viganò.
The statement says that the budget of the Governorate is regularly submitted to the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See and to its “college of international auditors” for scrutiny.
It also attributes the turnaround in the Governorate’s financial situation during Archbishop Viganò’s tenure to “principally to two factors” – improved returns from financial investments and “to an even greater extent, to the excellent results of the Vatican Museums.”
The governorate also insisted that it uses “standard bidding procedures” for major work carried out within the Vatican City State, such as the present restoration of the Colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. The bidding process is overseen by the Cardinal President of the Governorate and an “ad hoc” commission. Smaller projects are overseen by the staff of the Vatican’s Directorate of Technical Services or by “well known and well qualified external firms, on the basis of the prices in use in Italy,” the statement said.
The Governorate also expressed “complete trust in, and respect for” the members of the Finance and Management Committee, and hoped to “be able to continue to draw on their advice in the future.”
The statement also expressed trust in the Governorate’s administrative offices and collaborators.
“All suspicions and accusations have, following careful examination, been shown to be unfounded, as have (almost to the point of seeming laughable) news reports – fruit of a certain kind of highly superficial journalism … .”
It does, however, say that the “implementation of the improvements” suggested by McKinsey management consultancy firm in a report commissioned by Cardinal Lajolo in 2009 will continue to be implemented.