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John Paul had barely shut the Holy Door at the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica when he bestowed the red cardinal’s hat in early 2001 on the then 57-year-old Sepe, a native of the Naples area, in what was seen as a reward.

Cardinal Sepe was appointed to lead Propaganda Fide, which, with its deep coffers and choice real estate, has traditionally been one of the curia’s more politically influential offices in Italy.

In 2006, a year after Benedict XVI became pontiff, he transferred Cardinal Sepe from the Propaganda Fide post to Naples. That move raised eyebrows because it is uncommon for senior Vatican officials to be transferred to dioceses.

Among those arrested in the current scandal have been Mr. Anemone and a former government official for public works, and Angelo Balducci, who was quietly dropped from the ranks of those who serve as honorary ushers at Vatican ceremonies.