Cardinal Pell Turns 75, Pope to Keep Him on as Vatican Finance Chief

(photo: Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA)

Cardinal George Pell will continue in his role as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, despite being obliged to submit his resignation on turning 75 today, the Vatican has said.

Holy See Press Office director Father Federico Lombardi told reporters this afternoon there are no grounds to believe that Cardinal Pell won’t stay in his permanent role as prefect, and reminded media that on a recent courtesy visit to the Secretariat, Pope Francis expressed his “full confidence” in Cardinal Pell and that he wished him to continue as prefect.

All cardinals and bishops have to submit their resignations on turning 75 (since 2014, this applies also to Vatican cardinals), but they are not always accepted if the Pope wishes them to continue in their posts. Father Lombardi pointed out that Cardinal Angelo Amato also celebrated his birthday today, and at 78 continues as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In 2014, Cardinal Pell was given a five-year mandate to head up the Secretariat for the Economy and so expected to continue beyond this year. Pope Francis established the Secretariat that year to have authority over all economic activities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State and help implement financial reforms of the Roman Curia. 

There was some media speculation in April that certain figures in the Vatican were trying to maneuver Cardinal Pell out of his role after an external audit of Vatican finances was unexpectedly halted without informing him. Resistance to some of the economic reforms that the cardinal has overseen is well known and the Pope has twice backed him when his reforms met headwinds. One Italian newspaper went so far as to prematurely predict in April that the “era” of Cardinal Pell was “over, or nearly so” but the cardinal is expected to see out his five year mandate.

Briefing journalists today on a meeting of the Council of Nine Cardinals which ended today, Father Lombardi said both Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who heads the Council for the Economy which oversees the Secretariat, discussed matters relating to their competencies. The so-called C9, which includes Cardinals Pell and Marx, is advising Pope Francis on structural reform of the Roman Curia.