In the first scandal to hit the Vatican since Pope Francis took over in 2013, two advisors who served on the pope’s financial reform commission have been arrested on suspicion of leaking confidential information to the authors of two new books that reportedly expose more corruption at the Holy See.
Francesca Chaouqui, an Italian public relations executive called “the pope’s lobbyist” by some, reports the Washington Post, and the priest Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, were arrested over the weekend. Both had served on a former commission set up by Francis to drive reform of the Holy See's finances.
The Vatican condemned the leaks, calling them a "serious betrayal of the trust bestowed by the pope," though it didn’t provide any details behind the arrests, reports Reuters.
“One must keep in mind that the leaking of confidential information and documents is a crime" under a law instituted in the first months of Francis's papacy, a Vatican statement said.
Monsignor Vallejo Balda was still in jail on Monday in Vatican City, Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini told the Associated Press. Ms. Chaouqui was released because she cooperated with authorities.
Vallejo Balda, is likley the highest-ranking member of the Vatican's administrative body, known as the Curia, ever to have been arrested. Chaouqui is known for raising Vatican eyebrows for posting a provocative photo of herself on Facebook shortly after her appointment to the commission in 2013.
The latest incident is the first since Pope Benedict's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested in 2012 for stealing (and leaking) documents from the pope's desk that pointed to corruption in the Vatican. He was later convicted, and then pardoned by Benedict. Some suspect that this led to Benedict’s resignation, the first in six centuries.
The latest scandal will likely provide a boost to the sale of two books that their publishers say reveal new evidence of scandal and mismanagement in the Roman city-state, and internal conspiracies to undermine Francis' reform efforts.
One of the two books "Merchants in the Temple," by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, is due to be released on Wednesday. His 2012 book "His Holiness," was based on documents leaked by Mr. Gabriele.
"Publications of this nature do not help in any way to establish clarity and truth, but rather generate confusion and partial and tendentious conclusions," the Vatican said.
The Vatican described the books as the result "of an operation to take advantage of a gravely illicit act of handing over confidential documentation."
This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.