Domenico Giani, the Vatican’s long-time security chief and Pope Francis’ main bodyguard, resigned over leaks related to an investigation into alleged financial wrongdoing in the Vatican.
Giani, 57, a former member of Italy’s secret services, had been part of the Vatican security apparatus for 20 years, serving three popes, and had held the top post since 2006.
No previous head of Vatican security has left under a shadow in living memory. His resignation is the latest twist in a saga that has gripped the Vatican for two weeks.
It started with an unprecedented and unexplained October 2 raid by Giani’s men on two key Vatican offices, the Financial Information Authority (AIF) and the Secretariat of State.
The subsequent leak and publication in Italian media of an internal police notice bearing pictures of five Vatican employees, including the number two at AIF and a monsignor in the Secretariat of State, has left the Vatican in turmoil.
The Italian Espresso magazine said the probe was into “real estate operations abroad”, notably in London.
The shaven-headed Giani, who was often seen by the pope’s side or running along beside the Popemobile as it moved through crowds, signed the notice which showed the five, including a woman, in a format similar to a “most wanted” flyer.
Vatican sources said the pope was furious over the leak of the notice, issued to guards at gates telling them the five could not enter the Vatican because they had been “preventively suspended”, and had ordered an investigation.
Sources said he was upset that the five had been represented in such a way even though they were not formally suspected of anything and while the investigation, into an international real estate deal, was still in its infancy.
In a statement on Monday, the Vatican said publishing the notice was “prejudicial to the dignity of the people involved and to the image of the Gendarmerie” but that Giani “bears no personal responsibility in the unfolding of events”.
Giani himself told the internal Vatican Media website that he assumed “objective responsibility” as commander of the Vatican’s Gendarmerie.
The Gendarmerie provides security together with the Swiss Guard, a separate unit with its own commander. Both travel with the pope when he leaves the Vatican.
Giani joined the Vatican police force as the deputy police chief in 1999 after a stint in Italy’s financial police and the information department of the Italian premier’s office. He was named director of Vatican security services in 2006.
Giani said he was leaving at a difficult time, but was looking forward to spending more time with his wife and two children.