Cardinal Pell has granted an interview to the media for the first time since his return to Rome. Pope Francis’s former treasurer looks back on the alleged financial scandals that may have tarnished the Vatican’s image in recent months, and which he himself had uncovered beginning in 2014.
“I never, never thought it would be as Technicolor as it proved.” Sitting in his apartment next to St. Peter’s Square in a comfortable lounge chair, Cardinal George Pell, on November 30, 2020, answered the questions that Nicole Winfield, from the Associated Press, came to ask on the occasion of the release of his latest book, Prison Journal.
In this book, the senior Australian prelate recalls his first five months in detention in Melbourne, but also looks back on his three years as head of the secretariat for the economy at the Vatican.
“I didn’t know that there was so much criminality involved,” confides the cardinal who had received in 2014 from the Sovereign Pontiff the delicate mission of imposing international accounting, budgeting and transparency standards on the Vatican: a small revolution within a Roman Curia where secrecy is important - and for certain matters, essential.
When asked about the alleged financial scandals that have splashed around the image of the Holy See for several months, and which led to the resounding resignation of his adversary at the Curia, Cardinal Angelo Maria Becciu, Bishop Pell puts everything in perspective: “It just might be staggering incompetence.”
On the business which would justify a posteriori the methods, sometimes considered muscular, of the former treasurer of the Pope: “it would be better for the church if these things hadn’t happened.… But given that they have happened, it’s quite clear,” that the reforms he sought to impose were necessary.
As to the possible link between the resistance he faced in his efforts to reform the Curia, his forced departure from Rome to face prosecution in Australia. The high prelate stated, “I hope for the sake of the church, there’s nothing in it…because some Australian people, my own family, said to me: ‘Well, if the Mafia is going after you or somebody else is going after you, that’s one thing. It’s a little bit worse if it comes from within the church.’”
And Cardinal Pell added with a knowing wink: “But I think we will find out, whether there is or there isn’t. Certainly the party’s not over.”