ROME — Cardinal George Pell said it is widely believed by senior Vatican officials that his prosecution in Australia for historic sex abuse was linked to his fight against financial corruption in the Vatican.
In a nearly hourlong televised interview Tuesday in australia, SkyNews host Andrew Bolt asked the cardinal point blank whether he had ever considered “that the trouble you were causing to corrupt officials in the Vatican was related to the troubles that have since happened to you here?”
“Most of the senior people in Rome who are in any way sympathetic to financial reform believe that they are,” Pell responded, while adding that he does not personally have hard evidence of that.
In March 2019, Vatican journalist Marco Tossati wrote an article titled, “Cannons in Australia with Bullets Made in the Vatican,” saying this was a phrase he had often heard from Vatican insiders who were convinced that accusations against Pell in Australia were instigated by his enemies in Rome.
In his work as Vatican prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy, the Australian cardinal had definitely ruffled some feathers and uncovered information that could make senior officials very nervous.
Back in December 2014, Pell announced the discovery of “hundreds of millions of euros” off the Vatican books.
“In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet,” the cardinal wrote at the time.
In April of 2016, the Vatican Secretariat of State announced the suspension of a first external financial audit of the Vatican by PricewaterhouseCoopers without consulting Cardinal Pell. One source told the National Catholic Register that officials were “afraid of the audit uncovering information they don’t want uncovered and are worried about losing sovereign control over Vatican finances,” before adding: “What they want is to get rid of Cardinal Pell.”
At that time, Italian Archbishop Angelo Becciu wrote a letter to every Vatican entity announcing the pause in proceedings and the revocation of authority that Pell had given the auditor to collect financial information.
In his television interview Tuesday, Cardinal Pell said what really worried him was that important evidence of corruption that his team had discovered could get misplaced while he was away being prosecuted in Australia. A series of investigative reports into Vatican financial corruption last December, however, had put those fears to rest, he said.
“Thanks be to God all that’s gone because a flurry of articles just before Christmas and around Christmas exposing all sorts of things like a disastrous purchase — actually a couple of them — in London,” he said.
“What we were pushing and saying has been massively vindicated,” he said. “Now you can see why they sacked the auditor; now you can see why they got rid of the external auditors.”
At the same time, Pell said that Pope Francis had been “very supportive right through.”
“My theological views … don’t line up exactly with those of Pope Francis,” he said, but “I worked in the C9, the group of his closest advisers, he is the successor of Peter, he’s owed respect and I think he values my honesty and perhaps that I would say things that some other people mightn’t say, and I think he respects me for that.”
Pell also said he does not believe that either Francis or Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin were corrupt, but that he was not sure how high the alleged Vatican corruption goes.
“Just how high up it goes is an interesting hypothesis,” he said.
In the interview, Andrew Bolt said he found it astounding how Australian authorities — especially the Victoria police, ABC television, and the judiciary — had aligned in their determination to bring down the cardinal despite the absolute dearth of evidence that he had done anything wrong.
“I don’t know how you explain it, but it is certainly extraordinary,” Pell said.