Rome, Italy, Sep 30, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell arrived in Rome Wednesday as financial scandals continue to cast a shadow over the Vatican.
The former prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy was pictured in the Italian capital Sept. 30 on his first visit to the city since he left in 2017 for Australia to prove his innocence of abuse charges.
The 79-year-old left Sydney International Airport on Tuesday evening and arrived in Italy following an overnight flight, sources close to the cardinal confirmed to CNA.
On the day of Pell’s arrival, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica claimed in a front-page report that Vatican investigators had discovered that 20 million pounds ($26 million) had been withdrawn from an account reserved for use by Pope Francis.
In 2014, the pope asked Pell to take charge of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy and to lead efforts at reforming Vatican financial affairs. After charges of sexual abuse were brought by Victoria police, Pell took temporary leave of his role in 2017 to return to Australia and defend his name.
Pell faced allegations from a single accuser related to his time as bishop of Melbourne. He spent 13 months in solitary confinement after he was initially convicted and given a six-year prison sentence, before being vindicated on appeal to the High Court.
Pell’s term of office as head of the Vatican’s financial secretariat expired during his time in prison, with Pope Francis naming Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, SJ, to succeed him in 2019.
The Australian cardinal returned to Rome less than a week after the dramatic resignation of Cardinal Angelo Becciu. Pope Francis asked Becciu to resign as prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals Sept. 24 after he was linked to an ongoing investigation of financial misconduct at the Vatican.
Becciu had worked previously as the number two-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, where, CNA has previously reported, he repeatedly clashed with Pell over the reform of Vatican finances.
The Italian cardinal held a press conference in Rome Sept. 25 at which he protested his innocence of financial wrongdoing.
Pell responded to the news of Becciu’s resignation with gratitude.
“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,” Pell wrote in a statement sent to CNA Sept. 25.
“I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria,” Pell said.