The Settling of Accounts in Australia

November 18, 2021

In his latest interview with La Stampa, Cardinal George Pell blames the Secretary of State for the colossal losses of money suffered by the Vatican in a questionable financial transaction in the United Kingdom. An assertion that comes as the trial of Cardinal Angelo Maria Becciu is taking place in the Vatican.

“There was resistance at the secretariat of state. But if the Auditor or one of us in the Secretary of the Economy had been able to intervene upstream, we could have saved all that money spent on buying the London Palace.”

In his apartment located a stone's throw from the Vatican Basilica, Australian Cardinal George Pell, aged 88, received journalists on November 3, 2021, in order to present the Italian version of his book, Prison Journal, in which the high prelate describes in detail his thirteen months spent behind bars.

The opportunity to clarify certain information relating to the financial scandal for which, among other defendants, Cardinal Angelo Maria Becciu, former deputy of the Secretary of State, is accused of having played a key role in a dubious real estate transaction in London .

Cardinal Pell repeats it: if he ended up in prison, it was because of his ideas, which made him hate progressives. “In the Anglo-Saxon world, we are witnessing a real cultural war: I am a conservative, but the strongest opposition to secularization comes from the conservatives, which has not worked in my favor.”

The high prelate evokes a possible link between his prison sentence and his role as the Mr. Clean of  the Vatican: “we are talking about a possible link between my legal problems and financial problems: we know that $2.23 million have disappeared in Australia, but in the end, no one is able to explain why,” wonders the cardinal.

When asked about the situation of Roman finances when he took over as head of the Secretariat for the Economy, Bishop Pell paints a rather bleak picture:

“It was still the old world. We had introduced a monitoring and verification solution that everyone now uses. We had discovered 300,000 euros scattered between the various offices. And, for the first time, we had drawn up an annual provisional budget: basic things in short.”

When we talk about the role played in all this by the secretariat of state, the high prelate does not mince words: “it is public now. Becciu proclaimed loud and clear that the auditor had no authority to pass through the doors of the Secretary of State: which was not true, of course. We had the authority, but we were prevented from doing so.”

On the former substitute, pursued by Vatican justice: “Cardinal Becciu has the right to a fair trial, we will see what follows,” comments the cardinal who has never hidden his up-front opposition to the former number two of the secretary of state.
When asked whether he could have spared the Holy See the colossal losses of recent years, the Australian porporato qualifies: “in some cases, no, because 'things' had started before, in others, yes,” he affirms.

And to recall Pope Francis’ support: “the Holy Father said to me, moreover, that I had told him many things which turned out to be correct afterwards.”

On the issue of financial transparency, Cardinal Pell concluded the interview with a smile: “We are moving slowly. I don’t know how that’s going to end up, but we do know where we’re already at. It has been established how the Vatican saw a treasure in pounds sterling slip away with this London property. Just that is progress.”