An artist’s conception of the Via Appia leading towards St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica. Off to the right of this photo, a trial has been occurring for more than two years. Some have dubbed it “the trial of the century.” On trial is one cardinal, Angelo Becciu, 75, and another nine defendants, many Vatican officials. The verdicts will be handed down on or about December 15, in two weeks. This is the first in a series of reports on the trial

    Cardinal Becciu drives around Rome in… an extremely old Mazda Demio…From a recent news note published in the Italian magazine l’Espresso, a note which was just analyzed in another Italian magazine, Voce alta

    Letter #173, 2023, Friday, December 1: Old Mazda

    Since Day One of the pontificate of Pope Francis, he has raised eyebrows by eschewing the trapping of papal power, and in one key choice he has summed up the “Francis Revolution” — he has chosen to ride, not in a black Mercedes, but in a Ford Focus.

    A simple car for a simple Pope.

    I thought of this today when I saw a story on my usual “go-to” aggregator site, Il Sismografo.

    (The words means “The Seismograph.” Just as a seismograph registers the force of tremors or waves issuing from an earthquake, this website aims to register all of the waves issuing from the events of the days in the news stories about those events, therefore helping us to judge the force and danger of the various “earthquakes” arising in the Church.)

    The story I saw is at this link: link.

    At the link we find a photo of a tiny “news note” from the generally liberal or progressive Italian magazine l’Espresso under the rubric “Indiscreto” (“Indiscreet”) signed by Gianfranco Ferroni, entitled “Vaticano / Povero Becciu” (“Vatican / Poor Becciu”).

    And this is what the news note says:

    “Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu drives around Rome in a car. And it is easy to recognize him when he is traveling: because he is driving an extremely old Mazda Demio, one of the few still in circulation, in the mechanical condition of ‘I hope I make it to my destination without breaking down.’ Who is attracted by the sight of the vehicle lifts up his eyes to see who is the driver: it is precisely the high-ranking prelate, accused in the Vatican of having enriched himself by pursuing his personal financial advantage.”

    In other words, l’Espresso is saying that Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who is accused of having embezzled a great deal of money from the Vatican over many years, drives a very old and very cheap car.

    (Not unlike Pope Francis.)

    And then, beneath this report from l’Espresso, Il Sismografo prints this article:

    (Voce Alta) Daily Justice • Today

    L’Espresso and Cardinal Becciu

    Written by Vocealta

    In the Vatican, an epochal trial is about to come to an end.

    [Note: The trial has gone on for more than 2 years, and the verdict is expected to be issued on or about December 15, in two weeks.]

     It is the first time in the history of the Church, in fact, that a Cardinal — His Eminence Giovanni Angelo Becciu – is being judged by a lay tribunal.

    [Note: this trial, for the first time, lay judges will issue the verdict (although the verdict must still be presented to the Pope for his approval or disapproval, that is, the final decision is actually still up to the Pope); up until now, cardinals were only judged by other cardinals, or, by the reigning Pope.]

    To find a similar case, we must go back five centuries to the figure of Cardinal Giovanni Morone [Note: a cardinal diplomat in the 1500s, at the time of the Protestant Reformation, who was imprisoned by a Pope (link)] yet even he was tried before a commission made up solely of his fellow cardinals.

    Last week it was in fact the turn of Cardinal Becciu’s defenders to speak, while the cardinal — who preferred to remain silent throughout the trial — granted an exclusive interview to TG1, to affirm his innocence and explain that the objective of his commitment was always the good of the Holy See, never the enrichment of himself or his relatives.

    An initial scandal phase, with the traditional “media bomb” exploding during the first acts of the trial, is now being followed by a downsizing of the affair, following a hearing which seems to have undermined the accusatory theorem produced by the Promoters of Justice (the Vatican equivalent of the Italian public prosecutor).

    Among those who have had to change their minds about Mons. Becciu and the entire case there is also the authoritative weekly L’Espresso. The periodical had in fact been among those who had drummed up the most attacks against the high prelate, denouncing alleged scandals and business plots which in reality have dissolved.

    Two years after the outbreak we were talking about before [Note: the “traditional ‘media bomb'” mentioned above], it is the same weekly that publishes — albeit in a very brief article — news which, according to the recent narrative concerning the cardinal, leaves one astonished: the man of the alleged millionaire business affairs, considered by some to be at the center of considerable monetary speculation, actually drives a car that is worth less than the money needed to scrap it.

    In fact, in the weekly magazine one reads about a “very old Mazda Demio, one of the few still in circulation, in ‘I hope I get by’ mechanical condition.” Mechanical condition which also leads the author of the article to note a certain dissonance with the accusations against the cardinal of “having enriched himself by pursuing personal advantage.”

    [End, Voce alta article]


    So, that is what “Voce alta” (“Loud voice”) says about the little note published by l’Espresso.

    In essence, this article is saying that even the Italian magazine l’Espresso, which was loudly condemning Cardinal Becciu’s alleged corruption while he was a high-ranking Vatican official, is now, on the eve of the trial verdict, “changing its tune” — just in the tiniest way, by writing a tiny note saying the cardinal (like the Pope) drives around Rome in an old, cheap car…


    At the same time, the American website and news agency The Pillar, which has given a considerable amount of coverage to the trial, is also writing about how things look for Cardinal Becciu two weeks before the final verdict in this 2-year-old trial.

    In fact, just three days ago, Ed Condon of The Pillar published a long piece in which Condon assesses Becciu’s chances of being acquitted, and seems to arrive at a negative conclusion: that Becciu will not be acquitted, that he will be found guilty…

    In Condon’s piece, entitled “Becciu’s Nixon moment: In media blitz, cardinal insists he is not a crook,” Condon writes:

    Becciu stands accused of embezzlement and abuse of office, conspiracy, as well as perverting the course of justice. But while the cardinal and his team are predicting total exoneration, how confident should they really be about his chances?

    ‘Modest’ means and good intentions

    In an interview last week with Italy’s state broadcaster, Rai, Cardinal Becciu appeared to present himself as a kind of suffering innocent, patiently awaiting his vindication. 

    “I continue to proclaim my innocence and I can say that I have never stolen,” Becciu said, suggesting that his personal financial circumstances were themselves a kind of proof of his honesty in office at the Secretariat of State, where he oversaw departmental finances until June of 2018. 

    “I have never improved my economic position. I don’t have villas, I don’t have houses, I don’t have apartments and my accounts are very, very modest.” 

    But Becciu’s claim to “modest” financial circumstances will likely strike many trial watchers, perhaps including the Vatican City judges, as curious, given some of the evidence they have heard over the last two-and-a-half years.

    Condon then goes on to detail a number of facts and allegations which he suggests add up to strong evidence that there was considerable financial corruption in what Becciu did over the years.

    But Condon makes no mention at all of Becciu’s car.

    Is Becciu’s car evidence of anything?


    As I learned today, Becciu’s car is a 2001 Mazda Demio.

    Mazda Demio’s were produced from 1996 to 2002.

    Becciu’s is a 2001. That makes it 22 years old.

    If you look up the value of a 2001 Mazda Demio, you will find that is worth between a bit less than 1,000 euros and a bit more than 2,000 euros, depending on its condition…

    In short, it’s a car worth even less than… a Ford Focus…

    And here is an assessment of the car (link):

    The Mazda Demio: Pros and Cons of this Compact Car

    The Mazda Demio is known for its fuel efficiency, reliability, and stylish design, but like any car, it also has its pros and cons. In this article, we’ll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the Mazda Demio to help you decide if it’s the right car for you.


    Fuel efficiency: One of the main advantages of the Mazda Demio is its fuel efficiency. It has a fuel economy rating of up to 41 miles per gallon, making it an excellent choice for those looking to save money on gas.


    The Mazda Demio has a reputation for being a reliable car, with a low rate of mechanical issues and a long lifespan. This means you can count on it to get you where you need to go without any unexpected breakdowns.

    Stylish design:

    The Mazda Demio has a sleek and stylish design that makes it stand out on the road. It’s a great choice for those who value style and want a car that makes a statement.

    Good handling:

    The Mazda Demio is known for its good handling and responsive steering, making it a fun car to drive. Whether you’re navigating city streets or winding mountain roads, the Demio is up to the task.


    Limited cargo space:

    One of the main drawbacks of the Mazda Demio is its limited cargo space. It’s a compact car, so it’s not designed for hauling large items or moving lots of stuff. If you need a car with plenty of room for storage, you may want to consider a larger vehicle.

    Noisy engine:

    Some drivers have complained about the Demio’s engine being a bit noisy, especially when accelerating. If you’re sensitive to engine noise, this could be a concern.

    Poor ride quality:

    Another potential downside of the Mazda Demio is its ride quality. Some drivers have reported that the car can feel a bit bumpy and uncomfortable on rough roads.


    Overall, the Mazda Demio is a reliable and fuel-efficient compact car with a stylish design. It’s a great choice for those who want a fun and efficient car that’s easy to drive. However, it may not be the best choice if you need a lot of cargo space or if you’re sensitive to engine noise or rough rides. Ultimately, it’s important to consider your own needs and preferences when deciding if the Mazda Demio is the right car for you…


    (End, Part #1 of a multi-part series; stay tuned…)


    P.S. Special Note! Since things in Rome seem to be heating up, I need support for this letter to prepare for the upcoming winter. Any donation would be appreciated: here.

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