Head of Vatican police resigns over 'highly damaging' memo leak

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image captionMr Giani is often seen by Pope Francis' side at key events

The head of the Vatican police has resigned following a leaked memo.

Domenico Giani, who is also the Pope's chief bodyguard, stepped down amid a scandal stemming from an investigation into alleged financial wrongdoing.

He had signed a memo which identified five employees who had been "suspended" and barred entry into the Vatican, though not investigated or charged. It was then leaked to the media.

Pope Francis said the leak harmed the principle of presumption of innocence.

The memo was "prejudicial to the dignity of the people involved" and to the image of the police, a statement from the Holy See's press office said.

Mr Giani had "no personal responsibility" in the affair, the statement added.

It said the Pope had shown appreciation for Mr Giani's "unquestionable faithfulness and loyalty", "extreme competence" and "undisputed professionalism".

What is the scandal about?

On 1 October, Vatican police raided the offices of the Holy See's Secretariat of State and its Financial Information Authority (AIF).

The raid was attempting to find evidence for suspected financial wrongdoing.

According to The Financial Times, the investigation centred on $200m (£160m; €180m) in Swiss bank accounts controlled by the Vatican which had been used to finance a luxury property development in the London district of Chelsea, and which had resulted in huge profit for the original seller.

The Holy See's Secretariat of State is in control of millions of dollars donated by Catholics across the world.

The Vatican has declined to comment on its ownership of the building.

What was in the memo?

The day after the raid, a memo bearing photos of the five employees supposedly suspected of involvement in the scandal was distributed internally to Vatican security staff.

The memo said the five employees were "preventatively suspended" and barred from the Vatican, despite not being properly investigated.

It is unclear who sent the memo to the Italian newspaper L'Espresso.

The Pope described the leak as comparable to a "mortal sin" and ordered an investigation, saying it harmed personal dignity and the principle of presumption of innocence.

Who is Domenico Giani?

Mr Giani, 57, has worked for the Vatican police force for two decades.

Mr Giani was previously in Italy's secret service and in 2006 was named director of Vatican security services.

He has frequently been pictured assisting Pope Francis at events, trips and outings.

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image captionMr Giani is often pictured by Pope Francis' side

In an interview with Vatican News, he said "recent events have caused the Holy Father great sorrow" and this had deeply affected him.

The release of the document had "certainly trampled the dignity of these people," he said, and he was ashamed of the suffering caused.

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