VATICAN CITY — The administration of the Vatican City State on Saturday categorically rejected as groundless a top prelate's accusations of corruption in the Holy See's awarding of contracts.
Last month, an Italian investigative news program reported that the prelate had unsuccessfully requested not to be transferred to Washington by Pope Benedict XVI after exposing alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros in terms of higher contract prices.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano was the No. 2 administrator until the pope selected him to be his envoy to the U.S. last fall.
While the Vatican had previously defended Vigano's transfer to the prestigious post as proof of Benedict's "unquestionable respect and trust" in him, the written statement Saturday by the Vatican's governorship was the Holy See's first response to the corruption allegations themselves.
The Vatican's administration oversees outlays for contracts and financial investments. It administers everything from maintaining the pope's gardens to running the lucrative Vatican Museums.
In denying Vigano's allegations, it said said his assertions were the "fruit of erroneous evaluations or based on unproven fears." It contended that a careful examination had determined that the "suspicions and allegations" were "completely unfounded."
Vigano, in letters to the pope and to the Vatican's secretary of state, claimed to have exposed abuse of office in the running of the Holy See's administration, according to the TV program "The Untouchables." Vigano allegedly also claimed to have corrected the abuses during his two years as secretary-general of the city state.
The Vatican statement called the revelation of the letters a "source of great bitterness," but said it didn't want to go into details of Vigano's assertions.
The governorship countered that its investments had suffered "significant losses" due to the global financial crisis losses of 2008, and that Vatican bookkeeping rules dictated that some of those losses be carried over to 2009's books.
It boasted that Vatican's finances bounced back in 2010, mainly because of the management of the governorship's investments and excellent revenues from the Museums.
In its rebuttal, the Vatican insisted that major contracts are put up for bid, and that lesser projects are assigned either to its own personnel or that of qualified outside firms in accordance to the going rates in Italy.
Vigano had denounced the workings of an unofficial group of Italian bankers appointed after the global financial crisis to try to bolster the Vatican's finances.
The TV show was hosted by Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of "Vatican SpA," a 2009 volume laying out shady dealings of the Vatican bank based on leaked documents.
Among those signing the statement were the governorship's former head, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, and Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, a prelate who now heads the office and who will be raised to cardinal's rank in a ceremony led by Benedict later this month.