“I swear on the Holy Gospel to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth. “ This Monday is the day of trial for the smallest state in the world. Before the Vatican court, five witnesses must parade to shed light on a sordid case of sexual abuse: the complainant, who was 13 years old at the time of the first alleged attacks, in 2007, accuses another young man, who has since become a priest, of the having raped for six years. The facts would have taken place within the Vatican itself, in the pre-seminary, which houses the altar servers of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
But this time, the hearing of this trial opened since October does not take place in the small court where magistrates and lawyers usually meet. Due to the number of witnesses to be heard, Giuseppe Pignatone, an anti-Mafia judge who became, a year and a half ago, president of the tribunal, decided this morning to call the trial… in a multipurpose room of the Vatican Museums.
False ceilings, whose monotonous white tiles sometimes give way to one of the luminous squares ensuring the uniform lighting of the room, aligned tables draped in brown, bare white walls… all contrast here with the usual symbolic splendor of the Vatican. Only reminder that we are there: the gendarme on duty at the back of the room, whose kepi seems straight out of a Louis de Funès film, the large crucifix suspended above the president’s head and a portrait of the Pope Francis, seeming to seek the gaze of the witness at the bar. And it’s not the least of the paradoxes to see justice served here, in this ultra-functional room devoid of the symbols that are usually ubiquitous in the smallest state in the world.
However, this paradox should not hide the real revolution that is taking place before our eyes: they are lay people, competent and professional, to whom the Pope has entrusted his justice, including when it comes to judging priests and bishops. A way of remembering that from the gardener to the cardinal, everyone is now, in the Vatican, justiciable like any other.