Cardinal Becciu: Pope Francis Permitted Spending $1 Million to Free Nun Kidnapped in Mali

Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti was kidnapped in February 2017 and held until her Oct. 9, 2021, release.

Pope Francis greets the recently freed Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti at the Vatican, Oct. 10, 2021.
Pope Francis greets the recently freed Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti at the Vatican, Oct. 10, 2021. (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

At the Vatican’s finance trial on Thursday, Cardinal Angelo Becciu said that Pope Francis had allowed spending up to 1 million euros ($1.05 million) toward the liberation of a missionary abducted in Mali. 

Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti was kidnapped in February 2017 and held until her Oct. 9, 2021, release. 

Cardinal Becciu, who was the second-raking official in the Secretariat of State from 2011 to 2018, was questioned May 5 about investments during a hearing in the Vatican trial. The cardinal has been charged with embezzlement, abuse of office and witness tampering.

In his testimony, he discussed his dealings with Cecilia Marogna, a self-described “security consultant” accused of misappropriating Secretariat of State funds.

The 40-year-old from Sardinia is also a defendant in the trial. She has been charged with embezzlement for allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of euros from the secretariat, in connection with Cardinal Becciu, and then reportedly spending the money earmarked for charity on luxury goods and vacations, which she denies.

Cardinal Becciu said that he sought Marogna’s help to secure Sister Gloria’s release. 

The Associated Press’ Nicole Winfield wrote that the cardinal said Marogna “advised him that she could work with a British intelligence firm, The Inkerman Group, to secure the nun’s release.”

After securing Francis’ approval to proceed with Inkerman, Cardinal Becciu said he and Marogna met in London in January 2018 with three representatives of the firm, who said total costs could be 1 million euros.

For the sake of confidentiality and “to impede the association of Vatican institutions with similar events,” he said, it was agreed that Marogna would act as an intermediary between the Vatican and Inkerman, receiving payments from the Secretariat of State for the operation.

Cardinal Becciu testified: “In a subsequent meeting with the Holy Father, once in Rome, I spoke to him in more detail about the conversation we had with the Inkermans and the sum that we should have estimated in broad terms: about 1 million euros, part to pay for the creation of a network of contacts and part for the effective liberation of the nun. I pointed out that we shouldn’t have gone beyond that figure. He approved.”

The AP reported that Vatican prosecutors say they have evidence that the Secretariat of State sent 575,000 euros to Marogna, as well as “an equivalent amount directly to a British bank account held by Inkerman.” 

Shortly after her release, Sister Gloria posted on Twitter thanking God and all those who made possible her liberation.

“My thanks to His Holiness Pope Francis, to the Italian government, to the Italian intelligence agencies, to the Malian authorities, to Cardinal Zerbo,” the nun said in her Oct. 17, 2021, tweet.

After she was released, Cardinal Jean Zerbo of Bamako told AFP, “We  prayed a lot for her release. I thank the Malian authorities and the people of goodwill which made this release possible.” 

Sister Gloria, a Colombian national, also thanked “Dr. Iván Duque, President of Colombia, and the entire Colombian government, the Colombian ambassador to Italy, Dr. Jorge Mario, GAULA, the Bishops’ Conference, the bishops and priests, the men and women religious, parish groups, committed laity, prayer groups."

The nun also thanked “the educational institutions, teaching and administrative staff, students and alumni, the congregation of Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, my family, all those people who prayed for me and made my liberation possible.”

Armed men kidnapped Sister Gloria, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, in Karangasso, about 90 miles south of San, Feb. 7, 2017. The men forced her to hand over the keys to the community's ambulance. The vehicle was later found abandoned. Three other sisters were present at their house but escaped.

According to the AP, a judge in the country charged four individuals in relation to the kidnapping in April 2017.

Sister Gloria identified the group that held her as Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, a militant Islamist group in West Africa and the Maghreb.