The Vatican is this week in the grip of a paranoia reminiscent of the days when Renaissance popes (and their dinner guests) were forced to employ food-tasters.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, until 2018 the sostenuto at the Secretariat of State – that is, the Pope's hugely powerful chief of staff – has been sacked by Francis, who has accused him of stealing vast amounts of money. The Pope, who once showered him with favours, stripped Becciu of all the privileges associated with the position of cardinal – a twist of the knife worthy of a Netflix drama, or perhaps one of the Godfather films.
And now, in an equally extraordinary sequel, Becciu's arch-foe Cardinal George Pell, until recently languishing in an Australian jail cell, is heading back to Rome to advise Francis on resuming the Pell financial reforms that Becciu torpedoed.
My guest for this episode of Holy Smoke is the journalist who can take the most credit for uncovering Becciu's activities: Ed Condon, Washington Bureau Chief of the Catholic News Agency.