ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (TNS) — There is clear evidence of financial corruption inside the Vatican, but the problem has been detected and is being dealt with, Pope Francis said on Tuesday.

“What happened, happened: a scandal. They did things that do not seem clean,” Francis said during an in-flight press conference on the way back from Japan.

He was referring to a Vatican investigation into the allegedly fraudulent use of the Peter’s Pence, the pope’s charity fund, to buy a luxury property in central London.

Francis said five Vatican administration officials who have been suspended in connection with the probe will start being interrogated “in less than a month.”

“There is corruption, it’s clear. With the (interrogations) we will see if they are guilty or not. It is an ugly thing, it’s not nice for this to happen in the Vatican,” Francis said.

They were the first public comments from the pope on a destabilizing affair that has cast new shadows over the Vatican’s attempts in recent years to improve its act on financial transparency.

The Vatican’s long-serving security chief, Domenico Giani, and the president of its financial watchdog AIF, Rene Bruelhart, have both left their positions in past weeks.

Bruelhart’s deputy, Tommaso Di Ruzza, is one of the five suspects due to be interrogated. Francis said it was the Vatican’s financial auditor who raised the first suspicions about the affair.

“For the first time, the dirt is being uncovered from within the Vatican, rather than from outside,” Francis said. “Internal (monitoring) mechanisms are beginning to work,” he added.

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