A scandal of biblical proportions: inside the Vatican’s landmark corruption trial

The Vatican is no stranger to PR disasters and outright disgrace. But a new corruption trial brings the scandal, for the first time, out into the open...

“He who enters the conclave as the Pope leaves it as a cardinal”, so the Vatican saying goes. Giovanni Angelo Becciu, a cardinal with access to the Holy See’s inner sanctum, who was even considered papabile – a popeable contender for the top job – must be turning those words over in his head now that his trial is underway for embezzlement, abuse of office, and inducing a witness to perjury. Cardinal Becciu has been stripped of his privileges – including his red biretta – but for now, he keeps his title. Where did it all go wrong?

The money, the power, and the secrecy of the Vatican operation have concocted some really delicious scandals since the early days of the Church. Pope Stephen VI, of the 9th Century, dug up his predecessor Pope Formosus and had his rotting corpse put on trial for blasphemy. Formosus’s lacklustre defence, as you may have guessed, led to a guilty verdict – his decaying blessing fingers were cut off, and his remains hurled into the Tiber. Pope John XII was accused of turning the Vatican into a brothel and was killed by one of the men he cuckolded, while Pope Benedict IX sold the papacy to another priest to pay off his election expenses. Pope Innocent VIII is said to have sustained himself on breast milk.

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