Pell advises new bishops not to sell land

The Vatican’s finance chief has told new bishops that they must not sell land.

Cardinal George Pell addressed recently ordained bishops in Rome last September.

The Tablet reported that the text of what he said has been released in a book of all the talks given to the bishops.

The Prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy told the new bishops that spending in their dioceses must be kept under control.

Cardinal Pell said a bishop must act as a custodian of diocesan assets and firmly stated that he must “not sell land”.

The cardinal stated: “This patrimony should be preserved and handed on to the bishop’s successor.”

“It belongs to the future and should not be spent on one generation.”

When selling diocesan land, canon law provisions around stable patrimony and alienation of land must be followed by a bishop.

Cardinal Pell added that the leader of a diocese must understand financial basics and show an interest in the issues.

If he doesn’t, Cardinal Pell explained, it “would give encouragement to thieves”.

He continued: “One does not have to be an expert, but he must be able to see the holes in a ladder.”

The cardinal said that “dishonesty is not unknown” in the Church.

He cited his first parish assignment as an assistant priest as an example without going into further details.

Cardinal Pell urged bishops to operate strict financial controls and employ a business manager to ensure guidelines are adhered to.

This manager should be more than an accountant, but “an entrepreneur” who understand finances, land matters and canon law.

Financial reporting is also cited as critically important along with strong internal controls to ensure cash is spent properly.

These measures will ensure that a diocese does not rack up an annual loss, something which the cardinal said should be “very rare”.

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