Featured Image
Luca Casarini at a Synod 2023 press briefing Michael Haynes

VATICAN CITY  (LifeSiteNews) – A financial scandal has erupted involving Pope Francis, leading Italian prelates, and the Italian left-wing activist Luca Casarini, showing the bishops funding Casarini’s campaign of aiding often illegal immigration into Italy.

In recent days, reports emerged in Italian outlets Panorama and LaVerita that Luca Casarini’s work aiding illegal immigration was being bankrolled by millions of Euros from Italian bishops. This is reportedly largely due to significant friendship from the Pope, from key cardinals in the Vatican, and from the head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

Casarini has not denied receipt of the money, although argued that some information published was used out of context and that he was not enriching himself.

Casarini – while perhaps little known further abroad – is a prominent figure in Italy, due to his checkered, anarchist past and his now very public work enabling illegal immigration in the Mediterranean. He described himself in July as not a Catholic, but a “Christian,” stating he had broken his relationship with the Catholic Church.

In recent years, Casarini has become consumed with activist work with the NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans (MSH), which focuses on bringing migrants to Italy’s shores after finding them in the Mediterranean Sea. The group uses the ship “Mare Jonio” for its missions. The ship has previously been confiscated and fined over disputes with the local authorities regarding their bringing illegal refugees to Italian ports. 

Italy has been facing a spiraling migrant crisis for many years, due to the mass influx of individuals into the country, chiefly from African, Muslim nations. The harbor town of Lampedusa is a popular destination for such migrant boats due to its position in the far south of Italy, and it is increasingly being overrun by Muslim immigrants. It was here that Pope Francis made his first trip outside of Rome, in July 2013.

According to the Italian media reports, which cited correspondence between Casarini and his associates, there was a push to use Casarini’s increasingly close relationship with Pope Francis as leverage to receive more money from the Italian episcopacy. 

In a message from 2020, Casarini was reportedly conversing with the priest chaplain of the group – the 30-year old Don Mattia Ferrari – that should Cardinal Matteo Zuppi become the new head of the Italian bishops then MSH would have much more ready access to funding. One individual is reported as asking how they could help ensure Zuppi became head of the bishops’ conference – a position he was subsequently raised to in the joint process between the bishops and Pope Francis.

The content of the messages, as reported by Italian media, continues with Casarini and his associates discussing how the cardinal appointments by Pope Francis help their cause:

If the financial situation becomes dramatic, you have to go to Zuppi and [Cardinal] Lorefice and beat the drum. 

They have money and personally archbishops always have an endowment that they have freely. After all the free publicity we have given them….

In the content of the messages, as revealed by the media, Casarini’s close confidant Don Ferrari praised the Pope’s appointing as cardinals Zuppi, Michael Czerny (Prefect of Dicastery for Integral Human Development), and Jean-Claude Hollerich (Relator general for Synod on Synodality), describing the prelates as “our supporters.”

“The Vatican is just now finally deciding to accept that the Church can support popular movements. In short, we have a perfect fit,” Ferrari reportedly wrote.

The revelations come amidst a case currently being made against Casarini, regarding a 2020 incident in which the MSH dropped off 27 migrants in Sicily, who had been taken onboard from a Danish vessel some days prior. The owners of the Danish vessel reportedly paid Casarini €125,000 for accepting and landing the migrants. A judge will rule this week whether there will be a trial to decide if Casarini broke Italian immigration laws. The messages have come to light as part of that investigation. 

Panorama also reported that Casarini was, according to the intercepted messages, receiving around €6,000 per month, which he stated allowed him to pay his rent and divorce proceedings without having to “go to work in a bar.” The reports stated that MSH received some €2 million from various ecclesiastical sources from 2021 to 2023. 

According to the reports, the group received such support from the Italian bishops likely due to Pope Francis’s direct approval of the group and his blossoming friendship with Casarini. Indeed, Casarini was invited to participate at the Synod on Synodality as one of the non-voting members. 

His associates dubbed Casarini as the Pope’s “ghostwriter” in the intercepted messages.

But Casarini has hit back at the reports, arguing that there had been no wrongdoing. He stated that the messages had been taken out of context, and that “some phrases that are attributed to me are totally invented.”

Casarini added that he had no wish to hide his relationship with the Church, and accused the leaked messages as being part of a campaign to turn the court case against him, as well as being “ clearly an attack on Pope Francis.”

Casarini’s inclusion in the Synod on Synodality was certainly a cause of consternation among many Italian Catholics, and the Pope’s favored defender of illegal immigration being now highlighted in such a manner places a renewed spotlight on the role relationships play in enacting decisions in the Vatican. 

Meanwhile, fellow Italian and former Papal Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò stated that “[d]iscovering that the Italian Bishops Conference, through its President Cardinal Zuppi and other fixers, is financing illegal immigration of largely criminal and violent Mohammedans, confirms that the Bergoglian church is totally subservient to Agenda 2030 and the Great Reset.”

He accused the Italian bishops of financially assisting the smugglers while also securing “a large share of the lucrative business of reception centers, financed by the Italian government.”