In Spain, the office of the Catholic bishop of Mallorca – one of the Balearic islands of the Mediterranean – denounced as “calumny” the media reports that at least 500,000 euros were paid as part of the process of the beatification of Sister Francinaina Cirer. A spokesman for the diocese said “it is false a report, that is not reflected in the book that has been the object of the controversy.” In a November 5 statement, the spokesman said that in reality, “there exists an open bank account from which the costs for beatification are paid. It is an open bank account in Spain, not at the Vatican, that is managed by the Sisters of Charity.” Currently, it is Bishop Javier Salinas Vinals who occupies the see.
This week, media reports focused on two yet-to-be released books, “Merchants in the Temple” — which was already as “Via Crucis” in Italian by Gianluigi Nuzzi, and “Avarice” by Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi – that recount financial misdealings at the Vatican. In the former, Nuzzi recounts that some 500,000 euros were paid to ensure the 1989 beatification of Blessed Francinaina. In Fittipaldi’s book, it is alleged that about $220,000 belonging to a foundation linked to a Rome pediatric hospital was used instead to furnish the palatial Vatican apartment of former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. In a statement, a Vatican spokesman said this week that the revelations represent serious violations of Pope Francis’s trust. Bertone was dispensed from his position once Pope Francis came.
This week, Nuzzi said that “becoming a saint comes at a price” and that “there is an office where one must go to declare someone a saint: that costs money.”
The books by journalists Nuzzi and Fittipaldi are based on information provided by a Spanish priest, Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda 54, and public relations consultant Francesca Chaouqui, 33. They are suspected of having illegally purloined the documents supplied to the authors. Vallejo was arrested last weekend by Vatican police and remains in jail, while Chaouqui was arrested but then released.
As to the controversy in Spain over the beatification of Sister Francinaina, the diocese of Mallorca denies that any money was paid for her beatification by Pope John Paul II. Furthermore, the statement declared “In general, no money has been paid for a cause for sainthood. It is distinct from the processing of a file that may require some expenses.” According to the diocesan spokesman, expenses include payments to legal experts and scientists who produce studies on the alleged miracles, or for organizing ceremonies.”
Jordi Llabrés, who presides over the Tia Xiroia Association, explained to local media in Spain that “it is true that an account for the beatification has been open for many years, but from that account have been paid numerous expenses such as the huge tapestry that hung in the Vatican square for the ceremony, the maintenance of the museum in Sencelles of the holy woman, and repairs to cell where she lived.”
However, Llabrés said that he has no further information about the alleged payment to the Vatican beyond what has been reported by the media. Speaking as an individual, Llabrés opined “If it is true what they’re saying, then it is the Vatican that should look into it because, as a person and a Christian, it may cause scandal.”
Nevertheless, Llabrés defended the Sisters of Charity, saying “I am certain that they paid what they were told it cost, thinking that it was something they had to cover. In no way do I believe that they bribed anyone.”
The mayor of the town of Sencelles, Juan Carlos Verd said of the controversy that “in no way should all of that is coming out should detract from the merit of the life and work of Sister Francinaina. I believe that our Blessed and the Sisters of Charity are, if anything, victims of this situation and not the perpetrators.”
Blessed Francinaina remains much beloved the Sencelles. “She was declared by the municipal government as an illustrious daughter for her obvious merits on behalf of our town, and we will not consider budging an inch. For us, she is a great representative of our community, having proven her worth,” said Mayor Verd. “It’s the Vatican that needs to investigate” the issue, he said.
Sister Francinaina Cirer (1781-1855), was a native of Mallorca who remains beloved and remembered by her community in Sencelles, where she is better known as ´Tia Xiroia´. She was a member of the congregation of the Sisters of Charity. Her tomb in Mallorca, located in the convent of the Sisters, is a pilgrimage destination for the faithful who have been calling for a declaration of sainthood.