VATICAN CITY – Other than St. Peter’s Basilica, there is hardly better real estate in Vatican City than the sprawling penthouse apartment in the Vatican gardens, where the rooftop terrace has in-your-face views of the dome itself and overlooks the hotel that Pope Francis calls home.
The 300-square-meter (3,230-square-foot) bachelor pad, belonging to the previous pope’s second-in-command, looked even better after undergoing a 422,000-euro ($481,000) face-lift.
Who footed the bill? The Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital foundation, which raises money for sick children at the “pope’s hospital” in Rome.
A recent Associated Press investigation uncovered a secret 2014 Vatican probe that found that the hospital’s mission under its past administration had become “more aimed at profit” than patient care. Now the renovations at Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s flat have sparked a criminal trial that shines a light on how some of that money was spent.
The Vatican on Tuesday will put its past hospital president, Giuseppe Profiti, and former hospital treasurer, Massimo Spina, on trial on charges they diverted hospital donations to renovate Bertone’s retirement fixer-upper.
If found guilty of embezzlement, the pair face between three to five years in prison and fines starting at 5,000 euros. The penalty can be reduced if the amount diverted is repaid before the trial starts.
The scandal is the latest to strike the Holy See as Francis works to clean up centuries of shady business dealings in the walled-in, 44-hectare offshore city state, the world’s smallest. And it comes as Francis copes with the fallout from the embarrassing exit of his top financial adviser, Cardinal George Pell, who returned to his native Australia last week to face trial on sex abuse charges.