Cardinal George Pell thanked Pope Francis Friday following the dramatic resignation of Vatican Cardinal Angelo Becciu.
In a statement sent to CNA on September 25, the former prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy 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.”
The cardinal issued the statement from Sydney, Australia, where he is living after his acquittal by Australia’s High Court in April on charges of sexual abuse. He spent 13 months in solitary confinement after he was given a six-year prison sentence following a trial in Melbourne, Victoria.
“I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria,” Pell said.
Becciu resigned on September 24 as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals.
The cardinal worked previously as the number two-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and has been connected to an ongoing investigation of financial malfeasance at the secretariat.
Pell and Becciu had clashed over the reform of Vatican finances.
CNA has reported that in 2015 Becciu seemed to have made an attempt to disguise the loans on Vatican balance sheets by cancelling them out against the value of the property purchased in the London neighbourhood of Chelsea, an accounting manoeuvre prohibited by new financial policies approved by Pope Francis in 2014.
The alleged attempt to hide the loans off-books was detected by the Prefecture for the Economy, then led by Pell. Senior officials at the Prefecture for the Economy told CNA that when Pell began to demand details of the loans, especially those involving the Swiss bank BSI, then-Archbishop Becciu called the cardinal in to the Secretariat of State for a “reprimand.”
In 2016, Becciu was instrumental in bringing to a halt reforms initiated by Pell. Although Pope Francis had given the newly created Prefecture for the Economy autonomous oversight authority over Vatican finances, Becciu interfered when the prefecture planned an external audit of all Vatican departments, to be conducted by the firm PriceWaterhouseCooper.
Unilaterally, and without permission of Pope Francis, Becciu cancelled the audit and announced in a letter to all Vatican departments that it would not take place.
When Pell challenged internally the audit’s cancellation, Becciu persuaded Pope Francis to give his decision ex post facto approval, sources inside the prefecture told CNA. The audit never took place.
Becciu held a press conference in Rome on September 25 at which he protested his innocence of financial wrongdoing.