Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
The widow of a former dean of the Vatican diplomatic corps has called on Pope Francis to intervene after she lost her life savings with a fund manager recommended to her by one of the Pope’s chief advisers.
Martha Alegria Reichmann, the widow of Alejandro Valladares who was Honduran ambassador to the Holy See for 22 years, alleges she and her husband were advised in 2012 by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, to make the investment with London-based investor Youssry Henien.
But Henien then disappeared with all their life savings.
In this May 14 email interview with the Register, Reichmann says Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is coordinator of the C9 Group of Cardinals advising the Pope on curial reform, assured them that the investment was safe and that he too had invested archdiocesan money through Henien.
She explains that her motive for going public with her losses is simply to seek “justice.”
Reichmann says she is one of many victims of the Church in Honduras which, she says, is “governed by terror toward anyone who dares to question the cardinal’s bad decisions or, even more dangerously, to rub up against the auxiliary [Bishop] Juan Jose Pineda.”
The Register recently reported that Bishop Pineda, who often runs the archdiocese in the cardinal’s absence, has been accused of sexually abusing seminarians as well as financial misconduct.
The cardinal and the bishop have yet to respond to Register inquiries about the allegations. The Vatican also has declined comment.
Mrs. Reichmann, please could you tell us what happened regarding the fund and what was Cardinal Maradiaga’s involvement?
It is a complete mystery. I don’t know how the cardinal was involved. Only he knows the reason why he so confidently spoke to us about it and it turned out to be the opposite of what he told us. His exact words were: “I have already looked into it. It’s safe, that’s why I invested all the money of the diocese.” He told this to my husband and me in 2012. … I wrote him a letter dated April 9 asking him why he induced us to make the investment, but as always, he did not answer me. Only he knows why he did it.
How long have you known the cardinal and what is his relationship to you?
I have known the cardinal for almost 40 years. The friendship was supposedly very solid. He often told us that we were his family, but now I understand that everything was false on his part because he betrayed us in a terrible way.
He has severely harmed the family of someone he said was one of his best friends — that is, my husband who has already died.
What have you done to try to recover some of the losses, or bring those responsible to justice and what response have you had?
Initially I hired a law firm in Rome and another in London to file a lawsuit against Mr. Youssry Henien but it could not be carried out due to the scarce documentation I have: the bank transfer receipts for the money we invested, the certificates of deposit that were supposedly delivered to me from Commerzbank that turned out to be false because that bank never got a cent in our name. There are no documents to support the claim such as a contract where we authorize Mr. Henien to manage our investments. They never asked us to sign any contracts.
What have the Pope and his advisers done related to your case?
In the Vatican, they have asked Cardinal Rodriguez [Maradiaga] to meet with me to reach an agreement but he does not comply.
In fact, last February, while I was in Rome and so was the cardinal, the Pope asked both him and me to meet and discuss the subject. We both accepted, but at the last minute, the cardinal flatly refused and there was no meeting.
Have you been in contact with Youssry Henien and what are the chances you will be able to recover your investment?
In February 2015 I notified Mr. Henien that I was not going to renew one of the certificates of deposit because I needed the money. He refused to send it and I told him that I would have to hire a lawyer to which he replied: Let your lawyer sort it out with mine and from now on there will be no more communication between you and me.
Our lawyer subsequently wrote to him to ask for his lawyer’s name and he never replied. On the internet we found that Leman Wealth Management [Henien’s firm] no longer existed.
What would you most like to see happen now?
What I would like most is to obtain justice somehow or other. All I need is justice. I trust in God and He will know how to heal my wounds which are very painful and deep. He will know how to heal the psychological hurt I have suffered, how I can go on in life without that money, because we lost all our savings … We’ve got nothing left. The Cardinal knows all this, but he has not the slightest remorse.
I want to make clear that I am not the only victim. … We are many victims and the common factor is that we have all had some problem with Auxiliary Bishop Juan Pineda [who is accused of sexual and financial misconduct]. It is clear to us that anyone who touches Pineda is condemned by [Cardinal] Rodriguez [Maradiaga].
What is your overall estimation of the situation in Honduras, especially the way the Church is run, and the allegations against Bishop Pineda?
It is known that at present the Church in Tegucigalpa is governed by terror towards anyone who dares to question the Cardinal’s bad decisions or, even more dangerously, to rub up against the auxiliary [bishop] Juan Jose Pineda. Everyone who has done this has already been marginalized.
Priests of the archdiocese have been suspended only for informing the cardinal himself of Bishop Pineda’s immoral acts or for having sought some other forum, (“the Apostolic Nunciature”) to be heard. In the year 2015, by order of Cardinal Rodriguez, all the priests of the Archdiocese were suspended from receiving an annual donation from the Catholic University, and the Cardinal later stated that he had done so because they had denounced him to the Apostolic Nuncio. We ask ourselves how is it possible that the cardinal denies the humble priests such a small sum of money once a year when he allows Pineda to waste millions?