Vatican: No jurisdiction to prosecute journalists who wrote book

Published 8:01 am Friday, July 8, 2016

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican court declared Thursday it had no jurisdiction to prosecute two journalists who wrote books based in part on confidential documents exposing greed, mismanagement and corruption in the Holy See, ending a trial that drew scorn from media rights groups.

The court did convict a Vatican monsignor and an Italian public relations expert for having conspired to leak documents, but cleared them of having formed a criminal association to do so. A fifth defendant, the monsignor’s secretary, was absolved of all charges.

The verdict was an embarrassment to Vatican prosecutors, who had accused journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi of conspiring and putting pressure on the three other defendants to get the information. Prosecutors had accused the three of forming a shady, secretive criminal organization that conspired to reveal confidential Vatican documents.

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In the end, the president of the four-judge tribunal, Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre, asserted the Vatican had no jurisdiction over the journalists and ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to show that any such criminal organization existed.

Speaking in the name of Pope Francis, Dalla Torre prefaced his sentence by insisting that the freedom of the press was enshrined in the Vatican legal code and that freedom of thought was “guaranteed by divine law.”

Fittipaldi and Nuzzi wrote blockbuster books last year based on Vatican documents exposing the greed of bishops and cardinals angling for big apartments, the extraordinarily high costs of getting a saint made, and the loss to the Holy See of millions of euros in rental income because of undervalued real estate.