Pope Francis Meets with Cardinal Pell at the Vatican

The Australian cardinal returned less than a week after the dramatic resignation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

Memorial Mass for Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of EWTN Global Catholic Network, on April 1, 2016 at the Pontifical Parish of St. Anne, presided by Cardinal George Pell.
Memorial Mass for Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of EWTN Global Catholic Network, on April 1, 2016 at the Pontifical Parish of St. Anne, presided by Cardinal George Pell. (photo: Daniel Ibanez / CNA/EWTN News)

VATICAN CITY — Former Vatican finance czar Cardinal George Pell met with Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican Monday.

The Holy See press office said that the audience took place Oct. 12, but gave no further details.

Cardinal Pell, the former prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, arrived in Rome Sept. 30 on his first visit to the city since he left in 2017 for Australia to prove his innocence of abuse charges. 

The Australian cardinal returned less than a week after the dramatic resignation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu. Pope Francis asked Cardinal Becciu to resign as prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals Sept. 24 amid allegations of financial misconduct against the Italian prelate.

Cardinal Becciu had worked previously as the number two-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, where, CNA has previously reported, he repeatedly clashed with Cardinal Pell over the reform of Vatican finances.

Cardinal Pell responded to the news of Cardinal Becciu’s resignation with gratitude.

“The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances. He plays a long game and is to be thanked and congratulated on recent developments,” Cardinal Pell wrote in a statement sent to CNA Sept. 25.

Cardinal Becciu has denied claims in the Italian media that he transferred money to Australia in an attempt to influence Cardinal Pell’s trial.

In a statement issued through his lawyer Oct. 7, he said that he had never sought to interfere in the process. 

The pope asked Cardinal Pell in 2014 to take charge of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy and to lead efforts at reforming Vatican financial affairs. After charges of sexual abuse were brought by Victoria police, Cardinal Pell took temporary leave of his role in 2017 to return to Australia and defend his name. 

Cardianl Pell faced allegations from a single accuser related to his time as bishop of Melbourne. He spent 13 months in solitary confinement after he was initially convicted and given a six-year prison sentence, before being vindicated on appeal to the High Court.

Cardinal Pell’s term of office as head of the Vatican’s financial secretariat expired during his time in prison, with Pope Francis naming Jesuit Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves to succeed him in 2019.

“I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria,” Cardinal Pell said in his statement following Cardinal Becciu’s resignation. 

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