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Cardinal Pell’s role at Vatican reduced after Pope approves decree

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy (CNS)

Pope Francis has announced a reorganisation of the oversight and administration of the Vatican’s financial affairs, a move that appears to have reduced the power of his financial czar, Cardinal George Pell.

In a new law announced on Saturday, Pope Francis essentially reversed a 2014 law that had transferred the main operational section of the patrimony office to the cardinal’s Secretariat for the Economy.

Francis says he was restoring these administrative functions to the APSA office because he realised there needed to be an “unequivocable and full separation” between those who manage Vatican assets (APSA) and those who supervise them (Cardinal Pell).

The cardinal, a longtime critic of the Vatican’s financial inefficiencies, had assumed control in a bid to assert authority over different areas of the Vatican’s finances. Over time, Pope Francis has trimmed his reach.

In Saturday’s statement, the Vatican said “the Holy Father approved a Motu Proprio to implement reform of the organisms engaged in control and vigilance as well as the administration of Holy See assets.”

“The document published today responds to the need to define further the relationship between the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and the Secretariat for the Economy. The fundamental principle at the base of the reforms in this area, and in particular at the base of this Motu Proprio, is that of ensuring the clear and unequivocal distinction between control and vigilance, on the one hand, and administration of assets, on the other,” the statement said.

“Therefore, the Motu Proprio specifies the competencies pertaining to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See and better delineates the Secretariat for the Economy’s fundamental role of control and vigilance.”