Cardinal George Pell enjoys Roman revival
Pell still has many detractors – he freely uses the term “enemies” – who believe him to be guilty. But in Rome, even many of his critics believed in his innocence, and since his return in September, he has enjoyed a well-publicized papal audience and regularly participates in Vatican events.
Pell had returned to Rome to clean his apartment, intending to make Sydney his permanent home.
But he never left. As the COVID-19 resurgence in Italy struck, Pell spent the winter watching the Vatican corruption and incompetence scandal he tried to uncover as Pope Francis’ finance czar publicly exploded from in a way he admits he never saw coming.
During the three years that Pell was in charge of Vatican finances, he tried to find out how much money the Secretariat of State had in its asset portfolio, what its investments were, and what it was doing with the dozens of millions of dollars. in donations from the faithful.
He largely failed because his enemy in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, blocked his efforts to impose international accounting and auditing standards. But now Becciu has been sacked, Francis has robbed the secretariat of its ability to manage money, and Vatican prosecutors are investigating the office’s 350million ($ 550million) investment in a real estate firm in London. .
No indictment has been issued after two years of investigation. But in court documents, prosecutors accused an Italian broker involved in the London deal of trying to extort € 15m in fees from the Holy See, and they accused a handful of Vatican officials of ‘involvement.
Those same court documents, however, made it clear that the entire venture had been approved by senior officials at the Secretariat of State, and witnesses say Francis himself approved “fair” compensation for the broker. Yet, it is known that only lower-ranking Vatican officials and outside businessmen are investigated.
Pell said he was comforted that Vatican prosecutors were on the case, given the tens of millions of euros that were lost in the deal. But he said he was concerned about possible problems in the investigation and wondered if the truth will ever come out.
He noted that a British judge recently rendered a devastating ruling against the Vatican in a related asset seizure case against the broker, Gianluigi Torzi. The judge said Vatican prosecutors made “appalling” omissions and misrepresentations in their legal aid request, and his ruling essentially dismantled much of their case against Torzi.
“He used the word ‘dreadful’ about skill level,” Pell said. The issues flagged in the UK ruling are “a matter of concern,” said Pell, for whom due process issues are particularly dear.
“It’s a matter of basic jurisdiction and justice,” Pell said. “We must act according to the standards of justice.”