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Pell draws link between Vatican finances clean-up and child sex charges

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Cardinal George Pell has inferred that his being charged with child sexual abuse in Victoria was due to his work on Vatican financial reform.

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Cardinal Pell was in December 2018 convicted on five charges of child sexual abuse but in April had his convictions quashed by the High Court.

He has since returned to his residence in Vatican City after a short period in Sydney and will this week publish his prison diaries.

The cardinal, who spent 404 days in prison before his acquittal, admitted to Italian public broadcaster RAI 1 he suspected he’d been framed because of his prior work as prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy.

“All the most important people that have worked together on financial reform, every single one of us, I believe with very few exceptions, has been attacked in the media and had our reputations besmirched in one way or another,” Cardinal Pell told RAI 1’s Sette Storie program on Monday (Italian time).

Cardinal Pell was tasked in 2014 with overseeing Vatican finances, including its budget, and cleaning up its books after a number of corruption scandals.

He returned to Australia in 2018 to face charges and never resumed his duties.

He did not provide any evidence which lent weight to his suspicions.

Cardinal Pell also referred to the case of Roberto Calvi, a Vatican banker who was in 1982 found dead hanging from a London bridge, and to banker Michele Sindona, who was fatally poisoned in prison in 1986.

“We all remember what happened to Calvi, who killed himself at a bridge in London … with his hands behind his back. A strange way to hang yourself,” he said.

“And we remember what happened to the other one, Sindona, poisoned in prison … Nowadays, it’s often used, (to attack) by destroying reputations.”

Cardinal Pell, 79, last week declared to Reuters the Vatican risked slowly “going broke” unless it curbed its deficits and put its house in order.

After his conviction was overturned, Pell travelled to Rome, with the Vatican releasing photos and a video clip of his meeting with Pope Francis.

In the video, Francis is heard saying “good to see you” and “more than a year” – an apparent reference to the 13 months 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”.

Prior to Pell’s visit, his Vatican nemesis, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, was sacked over a scandal in which the Vatican spent over $500m on a London real estate investment. 

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”.

-with AAP

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