Vatican to try 2 ex-hospital officials for diverting funds

Published 11:45 pm Thursday, July 13, 2017

VATICAN CITY — Vatican prosecutors have indicted the former president and the ex-treasurer of the Vatican’s children’s hospital for allegedly diverting money from the hospital’s fundraising foundation to pay for an extensive renovation to a top cardinal’s apartment.

The indictment released Thursday orders Giuseppe Profiti and Massimo Spina to stand trial in the Vatican tribunal starting Tuesday.

The indictment accuses the two of using 422,000 euros ($481,000) from the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital’s fundraising foundation to pay for renovations on Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s penthouse apartment starting in 2013, when he retired as Vatican secretary of state.

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Profiti, whose administration was the subject of a recent Associated Press investigation into quality of care problems at the “pope’s hospital,” has admitted to the payment. He said, however, it was an investment so the foundation could use the apartment for fundraising events.

Bertone, who had appointed Profiti as president of the hospital in 2008, denied knowledge of the payment and said he had paid for the renovations out of his own pocket. That suggests the construction company was either paid twice for the same work or that Bertone paid for only part of the overall cost.

The apartment is owned by the Vatican, but was assigned to Bertone for his personal use after he retired. Located in the Vatican gardens right next to the Vatican hotel where Pope Francis lives, the third-floor apartment has been the source of endless speculation ever since the Bambino Gesu payment was revealed in 2015.

Bertone, who was the Vatican’s No. 2 official under Pope Benedict XVI, has defended its relatively large size — some 300 square meters (3,230 square feet) — by saying other cardinals have even bigger apartments and that he lives there with a secretary and three nuns who help care for him.

Bertone was not charged. Nor was the construction company, Castelli Re, or its owner, longtime Bertone associate Gianantonio Bandera. Bandera was mentioned in the indictment of having received the payment, but was not named as a defendant.

Profiti resigned as president of Bambino Gesu in January 2015, nine months into a new three-year term. According to the AP investigation, a secret Vatican-authorized task force had reported in 2014 that under his administration, the mission of the pope’s hospital had been “lost” and was “today more aimed at profit than on caring for children.”