Pope Francis has met with Australian Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s former economy minister who has returned to Rome after the firing of an Italian cardinal whom Cardinal Pell had accused of obstructing financial reform.
Cardinal Pell was cleared earlier this year of sexual abuse charges in Australia after spending 13 months in prison, and it remains unclear whether he will take up another role in the Vatican.
The Vatican announced the Oct. 12 meeting between Cardinal Pell and Pope Francis in a statement on the pope’s daily private audiences, but gave no details. “It went very well,” Cardinal Pell told reporters in front of his residence just outside the Vatican walls.
Cardinal Pell returned to Rome on Sept. 30, just days after the pope fired Cardinal Pell’s nemesis, Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was accused of embezzlement and nepotism. Cardinal Becciu has denied all wrongdoing.
While Cardinal Becciu was number two in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and Cardinal Pell was economy minister, the two had a very stormy relationship.
Cardinal Becciu told reporters the day after he was sacked about a meeting between Cardinal Pell, the pope and Cardinal Becciu where Cardinal Pell told Cardinal Becciu, “You are dishonest”, and Cardinal Becciu replied: “How dare you!”
After Cardinal Becciu was sacked, Cardinal Pell said: “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 said he hoped the “cleaning of the stables” would continue.
Cardinal Becciu’s lawyer has denied Italian media reports that his client sent money to Australia to help Cardinal Pell’s “enemies” while he was facing the sexual abuse charges.
Through his lawyer, the Australian man who accused Cardinal Pell of sexually abusing him two decades ago denied Italian reports speculating that he may have been bribed to testify.
Cardinal Pell’s Australian lawyer, Robert Richter, called for an investigation “to track the money trail”. He said it should include Italian and Australian investigators.
“If one is to give any credence to what has been alleged, then it is critical that all proper money-tracing exercises be undertaken,” Richter told Reuters.