Vatican City | Pope Francis received Australian Cardinal George Pell in private audience on Monday, acquitted in April in a resounding pedophilia case in Australia and returned to Rome on Wednesday September 30 after more than three years of absence.
The news was announced in the official Vatican bulletin, which details the activities of the sovereign pontiff on a daily basis.
Very sensitive to the presumption of innocence and the fate of prisoners, the tete-a-tete between the Pope and his former “Minister” of the Economy is not surprising. However, it seems highly unlikely that the 79-year-old Australian prelate will be given a new role in the Holy See.
Cardinal Pell, who was supposed to observe a 14-day quarantine when arriving from Australia, had previously been photographed recently at a café terrace near Vatican City.
This man known for his grip and his knowledge of economic affairs was appointed in 2014 by Pope Francis to head a new Secretariat for the Economy, responsible for controlling finances and spending in the various administrations of the Holy See.
The task had aroused great internal resistance in a Roman Curia (Vatican government) accustomed to great financial autonomy.
The cardinal was sentenced in March 2019 to six years of imprisonment for rape and sexual assault on two altar boys in 1996 and 1997 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne (south-east) of which he was the archbishop.
His conviction, confirmed on appeal, was finally overturned by the High Court of Australia, which acquitted him in April of five counts of sexual violence, for the benefit of the doubt.
Bishop Pell, imprisoned for more than a year, was then released from prison, believing that the judgment made it possible to redress “a serious injustice”.
The Vatican then welcomed the decision of the Australian justice. And the Pope called for prayer for those “who suffer for unjust judgment because of relentlessness”, without naming Cardinal Pell.