Cardinal Pell has returned to Rome – but why?

Cardinal George Pell has returned to Rome. It is the first time Pell has returned to the Holy See since 2017, since he left to face historic child abuse charges.

In 2014 Pope Francis appointed Pell, then aged 73, to lead the Vatican Secretariat of State. His role was to reform the Vatican’s finances. However, his work halted in 2017 when he took leave to face abuse charges in Australia.

He was convicted of sexually abusing two boys in the 1990s and sentenced to six years in prison.

After serving 13 months of his sentence, Pell’s conviction was overturned by the High Court in April this year.

He has been living in Sydney since his release.

Christopher Lamb, who is the Rome correspondent for The Tablet newspaper and says all eyes will be on Pell in Rome.

“The Cardinal has a number of supporters in Rome and some very loyal followers,” Lamb says.

“There will be a number of them who will be delighted to see him return – they always were very sceptical of the charges that were brought against him.

“However there will be others who will be concerned about the optics of a return by Cardinal Pell to Rome and the Vatican … particularly if the cardinal has a meeting, an audience, with Pope Francis.”

Another Vatican-based journalist, Joshua McElwee, from the National Catholic Reporter, says Pell is no longer employed by the Vatican.

The reason for Pell’s visit is not clear. “At the moment he has no official role here,” McElwee says.

“Very likely he’s coming to put his affairs in order. I imagine he still has personal items here, things to bring home, perhaps an apartment to clean up.

“I don’t know what else he would be doing other than those kind of things.”

Pell’s return to Rome comes just days after Cardinal Angelo Becciu’s resigned from his position at the Roman Curia on 24 September.

Many Vatican sources say both Vatican prosecutors and the Italian Guardia di Finanza are expected to lay criminal charges of financial misconduct at the Vatican against Becciu.

Several of Becciu’s employees and closest collaborators are also being investigated by Vatican prosecutors and are expected to face criminal charges alongside Becciu.

In a former role at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, Becciu reportedly clashed with Pell over the Vatican financial reforms Pell was leading.

“Becciu apparently was involved in some kind of alleged financial misdeeds and Pell has said that he raised issues about those at the time,” McElwee says.

Whether Pell’s visit has anything to do with Becciu’s resignation is not known.

Lamb says Pell’s visit coincides with a period of uncertainty in Francis’s pontificate.

Many people are speculating that Pell could be seeking to influence the outcome of a future conclave to decide the next Pope.

“There is a battle going on and the Cardinal is certainly seen by those who don’t like Francis as someone who is an ally.”


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