SCANDALS IN THE VATICAN
The Vatican's new ambassador to the United States was at the center of explosive allegations about corruption at the Holy See just before Pope Benedict XVI sent him to Washington.
Ambassador Carlo Maria Vigano had pleaded with Benedict not to transfer him from his position as deputy-governor of the Vatican, where he had been exposing corruption in the awarding of contracts and mismanagement of millions of dollars in church investments.
The Italian media has been reporting breathlessly on internal investigations carried out by Archbishop Vigano and about private letters he wrote to the pope about the Vatican scandals. The archbishop himself has made no public comments about the sensational reporting, which some have described as tabloid-style journalism.
The expose began last month on a news show called "The Untouchables" on a private television network, La 7. Reporters produced several letters written last year by Archbishop Vigano, who was complaining about a backlash from critics of his investigation. He was aware of pressure on Benedict to transfer him from his position to shut down his probes.
"Holy Father," he said in a March letter, "my transfer right now would provoke much disorientation and discouragement in those who have believed it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of power that has been rooted in the management of so many [Vatican] departments."
Archbishop Vigano found that private contractors were vastly overcharging the papal city state for gardening, building maintenance and other work.
"Work was always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican," he said in another letter.
Archbishop Vigano also discovered that Vatican financial investors lost $2.5 million.
On March 22, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, informed the archbishop that he was to be removed from office. Archbishop Vigano, whose tenure was supposed to have run until 2014, responded that he was "dumbfounded" by Cardinal Bertone's decision.
Benedict named the archbishop ambassador to the United States in October to replace Ambassador Pietro Sambi, who died in July.
After closing the U.S. Embassy in Syria last week, Ambassador Robert Ford used his Facebook page to unleash his anger on the regime of President Bashar Assad and to post spy photos showing Syria's military shelling civilian neighborhoods in one restive city.
Mr. Ford, who got clearance to post the photos, said the aerial images show the "absolutely awful" and "horrific" army assault on the country's third-largest city, Homs.
"The Syrian government's claim that terrorists are shelling parts of Homs are completely ridiculous," he said. "We know who is shelling Homs."
In a weekend interview with a French television station, Mr. Ford insisted that the United States has no intention of invading Syria.
"We are not dithering. We are not hesitating," he said of U.S. diplomatic efforts. "We are striving for a peaceful political solution.
"Even the Syrian people do not want a [foreign] military solution to the crisis."
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
• Vice President Xi Jinping of China, who meets President Obama. Mr. Xi is expected to be the next president of China.
• Harald Muller, director of the Peace Research Institute of Frankfurt, Germany, and one of Europe's leading experts on nuclear weapons. He addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
• Christina Jutzi, deputy director of public policy at the Canadian Department of National Defense. She addresses students at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes. com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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