George Pell: Cardinal to return to Rome for first time since acquittal

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image captionCardinal Pell had his child abuse conviction quashed by Australia’s top court in April

Cardinal George Pell will return to Rome this week for the first time since he was acquitted of child sexual abuse and released from prison in Australia.

The ex-Vatican treasurer, 79, was due to fly out of Sydney on Tuesday, Australian media reported.

He was freed in April after Australia’s top court overturned his conviction. He had served over a year in jail.

The cleric left the Vatican in 2017 to fight the charges in his home state of Victoria.

“He always intended to return to Rome,” his friend Katrina Lee, from the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, told Reuters news agency.

She did not say whether the cleric would be seen at the Vatican, where previously he had led efforts to clean up the Church’s finances.

Cardinal Pell has maintained a low profile in Sydney – where he was once archbishop – in the months since his acquittal. He has been supported by the city’s archdiocese since his release.

He has been granted an exemption to leave Australia, which closed its borders in March to incoming and outgoing citizens due to the pandemic.

The news comes during a tumultuous period for the Vatican. Last week, Pope Francis fired senior cleric Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu over embezzlement accusations.

“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,” Cardinal Pell said last week in a statement reported by the Catholic News Agency.

A jury convicted Pell in 2018 of charges relating to the 1990s, but the High Court of Australia quashed that verdict. It found a jury had not properly considered all the evidence presented at trial.

In 2017, Australia’s landmark inquiry into child sexual abuse found the cardinal had known of child sexual abuse by priests for decades but had failed to take action.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse wrote over 100 pages concerning Pell’s actions, detailing how he failed to act over the actions of paedophile priests.

 

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