By Ann Schneible
Two former members of a Vatican commission have been arrested on charges of stealing and leaking information in connection with two soon-to-be released books alleged to contain confidential information surrounding Pope Francis’ pontificate.
Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda and Francesca Chaouqui were taken into custody after being questioned on Saturday and Sunday by the Vatican Gendarmerie, according to a Nov. 2 statement released by the Holy See Press Office.
The Vatican office of the Promoter of Justice on Monday confirmed the arrests of the Spanish official and the Italian PR woman who had both previously served on the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA), Msgr. Balda as secretary and Chaouqui as a member.
The arrests come ahead of the publication of two books reportedly containing leaked information from the Vatican, one having been written by the same journalist connected with the Vatileaks scandal under Benedict XVI’s pontificate.
Entitled “Avarice: The Papers that Reveal Wealth, Scandals and Secrets in the Church of Francis” and “Via Crucis,” the books were written by Italian journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, respectively.
Nuzzi obtained notoriety in 2012 through his connection with the leaking of confidential letters and memos from the previous Pope, culminating with his publication of the stolen material in his book: His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI.
The Vatican’s statement stressed the publication of illegally obtained confidential information constitutes a “serious betrayal of trust” which the Pope has placed on certain individuals. With regard to the authors of the books, it added that the Prosecutor’s Office is looking into the possibility of taking legal and penal measures against those involved.
The Vatican’s press statement said Chaouqui, 33, was released after spending one night in jail in exchange for her cooperation with investigations. Meanwhile, the position of Spanish prelate Msgr. Balda, 54, is still being examined by the Promoter of Justice.
The study commission COSEA was established in July 2013 by Pope Francis as part of his plan to reform the Vatican’s finances. It was dissolved after completing its mandate.