In a surprise move, Pope Francis on Thursday privately celebrated a Holy Week ritual with a cardinal he fired abruptly months ago, in an apparent gesture of reconciliation.
The cardinal, Angelo Becciu, was dismissed from a powerful Vatican job in September, after Francis told him he was accused of syphoning off Vatican charity funds to help his siblings.
But on Thursday, Francis visited Becciu and celebrated Holy Thursday mass in the chapel of his private apartment, the cardinal said in a statement issued to Vatican journalists.
A Vatican source said he could not comment on the pope’s “private engagements,” but added, “a fatherly gesture like this, on a day like Holy Thursday, does not seem strange.”
Holy Thursday mass commemorates Jesus’ last supper with the 12 apostles, and is part of the run-up to Easter Sunday, which marks Jesus’ resurrection and is the most important day in the Catholic calendar.
Francis normally celebrates Holy Thursday mass in public, but this year he delegated the task to the dean of the college of cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re, who led a service in the basilica of St John Lateran in Rome.
In keeping with coronavirus regulations, attendance was restricted.
Becciu has also been linked to a scandal concerning a loss-making Vatican investment in central London which happened under his watch, but he has always professed his innocence.
Before his dismissal, he led the Vatican’s department on sainthoods. He was previously, during 2011-2018, Substitute for General Affairs, a role akin to chief of staff in the Vatican’s central bureaucracy.
Becciu has not been charged with any crimes.