POPE Francis has welcomed Cardinal George Pell during a private Vatican meeting in the Apostolic Palace – their first meeting since the Australian cardinal’s child sexual abuse convictions were overturned.
The Holy See released photos and a brief video clip of the meeting, an indication that both the Pope and Cardinal Pell wanted the warm and smiling reception to be seen widely.
In the video, Pope Francis is heard saying “Good to see you” and “more than a year” – an apparent reference to the 13 months Cardinal Pell spent in prison in Victoria before he was cleared in April.
Cardinal Pell had long maintained his innocence and suggested, without evidence, that his prosecution was linked to his efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances.
His arrival in Rome on September 30 came in the midst of an unfolding financial corruption scandal that has implicated half a dozen Holy See employees and one of Cardinal Pell’s Vatican opponents, Cardinal Angelo Becciu.
Cardinal Becciu was Cardinal Pell’s deputy at the powerful economy ministry.
The pair frequently clashed over the way Cardinal Pell was introducing financial transparency measures until CardinalPell left Rome for Australia in 2017 to face child sexual abuse charges.
Pope Francis sacked Cardinal Becciu last month, suspected of embezzling Holy See money.
Cardinal Becciu has denied any wrongdoing and has also rejected reports in the Italian media that he allegedly transferred money to Australia in an attempt to influence Cardinal Pell’s “enemies” while he was facing the sexual abuse charges.
However two prominent Italian newspapers reported that Cardinal Becciu is suspected of arranging the equivalent of $A1.14 million to be wired to recipients in Australia to ensure evidence against Cardinal Pell.
After Cardinal Becciu was sacked, CardinalPell issued a statement praising Pope Francis and saying he hoped “the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria”.
The lawyer for the man who gave evidence against George Pell at trial has denied her client ever received money.
Cardinal Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter QC, has called for an investigation “to track the money trail”.