Vatican police raided its own Secretariat of State this morning to seize evidence connected to suspicious financial transactions that have been allegedly carried out over time.
According to a bulletin released by the Holy See’s Press Office, “documents and electronic devices” were seized from “certain offices of the First Section of the Secretariat of State and the State Financial Information Authority.”
The raid was authorized by Gian Piero Milano, the “Promoter of the Justice of the Tribunal”, i.e. the Vatican City prosecutor, and Alessandro Diddi, the “Adjunct Promoter.”
The operation was “linked to complaints” made last summer by the Vatican Bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), and the Office of the General Auditor about a number of financial transactions “carried out over time”.
The Secretariat of State is, roughly speaking, the civil service of the Holy See, directing the activities of the Curia, assisting Nuncios and handling diplomatic relations with other states. It is currently headed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who succeeded Cardinal Tarciso Bertone as Secretary of State in October 2013.
The “First Section” of the Secretariat of State is the Section for General Affairs, which is concerned with filling curial offices, publishing official documents, and diplomatic work. It has been headed by the Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra since October 2018. As the “Substitute” of this section, Peña Parra is the equivalent of a “Chief of Staff” and the third highest-ranking prelate in the Holy See.
Peña Parra is a controversial figure. According to Vatican whistleblower Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, he has been accused of gross immorality by a group of laypeople in Venezuela. Also, the Substitute claimed in a letter to an Argentine judge this June that a bishop accused of sexual abuse against seminarians in Argentina had a job in Rome, even though this prelate, Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, had been suspended since this January.
The Substitute is also close friends with Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga and his ex-auxiliary bishop, Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, who was credibly accused of sexually abusing seminarians and of financial impropriety.