First meeting after abuse trial

First meeting after abuse trial

Pope Francis and George Pell © Vatican Media/Romano Siciliani (KNA)

Australian Curia Cardinal George Pell has been received by Pope Francis for a private meeting this Monday. Pell had returned to Rome for the first time in three years in late September.

The head of the church has thanked the Vatican's former "economic minister" for his work, the official website "Vatican News" stressed. The 79-year-old had returned to Rome in recent days after being acquitted in April.

Pell was the highest-ranking church official in his home country to date, accused of sexual abuse, convicted and subsequently acquitted at the highest instance. The audience with Francis was the first meeting since the trial began in July 2017. He is considered a key witness in an investment affair involving the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Return to Rome

Pell had been granted an audience with Francis on 30. September returned to his Roman home from Australia for the first time in three years. Pell did not disclose the reason for his trip. Last week, he was seen around the Vatican, where many curia offices are based, despite a 14-day quarantine requirement in place in Italy.

Pell's return to Rome is seen as a rehabilitation in Rome. As prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, his demand for disclosure of the finances of individual Vatican agencies had also met with resistance within the Secretariat of State. After Pell's retirement from Rome, investigations by Vatican justice got underway into dubious financial transactions that allegedly led to the purchase of a luxury property in London at an inflated price.

Power struggle with Cardinal Becciu?

Pell's mandate as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy ended in February 2019. According to the Papal Yearbook, he no longer holds any other offices in the Curia. The Vatican wanted to make possible internal church criminal proceedings over the abuse allegations contingent on the outcome of the trial before the Australian judiciary.

Observers ame that investigations by the competent curia authority have been discontinued in the meantime. Italian media speculate that a power struggle with Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, a former top official in the Vatican Secretariat of State, also played a role in Pell's indictment in Australia.

The pope recently accepted the resignation of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu as president of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Angelo Becciu had at the same time renounced the rights associated with the title of cardinal. Until his move to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and appointment as cardinal in 2018, Becciu was in charge of financial affairs at the Vatican Secretariat of State.

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