The Vatican released photos and a brief video clip of the meeting in the Apostolic Palace, a clear sign that both the pope and Cardinal Pell wanted the reception to be widely seen.
In the video, Francis is heard saying “good to see you” and “more than a year” – an apparent reference to the 13 months the 79-year-old Cardinal Pell spent in prison.
The Vatican’s in-house media site Vatican News said the Pope also thanked Cardinal Pell for “his witness”, and recalled that after the cardinal was absolved in April, Francis delivered a homily in which he prayed for “all those who have suffered from unjust sentences”.
The audience with the Pope was a moment of redemption for Cardinal Pell, who left the Vatican in disgrace in 2017 to face trial in Melbourne.
He returned to find the Holy See enmeshed in a scandal of corruption, financial mismanagement and waste, the likes of which he had tried to uncover as Francis’ economy czar.
Over the past year, the Vatican has been hit by damaging revelations that it poured some 350 million euros ($A570 million), much of it donations from the faithful, into a London real estate venture.
Vatican prosecutors are investigating a handful of Italian middlemen who are accused of having fleeced the Holy See of tens of millions of euros in fees while the Vatican’s incompetent money managers stood by.
The scandal has implicated a half-dozen Vatican employees, including one of Cardinal Pell’s nemeses, Cardinal Angelo Becciu.
Becciu has been sacked, though he denied wrongdoing and has not been named as a suspect in the case.
After Becciu was sacked, Pell issued a statement praising Francis and saying he hoped “the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria”.
It was an apparent reference to his belief that his prosecution in Victoria was in some way connected to his efforts to root out corruption and waste in the Vatican.
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