Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s financial watchdog, slammed for lavish spending
by Tom Kington
A former Sydney archbishop tasked with cleaning up the Vatican’s finances has been accused of living it up at the Holy See’s expense.
Cardinal George Pell, who was hand-picked by Pope Francis to cut outlays and shed light on the Vatican’s murky finances, has been accused of spending half a million euros in six months by flying business class and using large sums on salaries and office furniture.
The allegations, contained in leaked figures published by Italian magazine L’Espresso on Friday, suggest Cardinal Pell also spent €2508 ($3600) on religious robes at a tailor and about $6650 on kitchen-sink fittings.
After his move to Rome to spearhead Francis’ mission to free up Vatican funds for the poor, the former archbishop of Sydney said he would try to save the Vatican “millions, if not tens of millions” of dollars a year.
Since then, he has flown business class and paid an assistant he brought from Australia a $21,600-a-month salary, the magazine reported, citing leaked Vatican documents. Francis, the article added, had challenged Cardinal Pell on his spending.
Despite Francis’ decision to move into humble dwellings at the Vatican, Cardinal Pell has spent more than $5100 a month to rent an office and apartment at an upmarket address where he spent nearly $87,000 on furniture, according to the allegations.
The new leaks about Cardinal Pell’s spending were widely suspected to be the work of Vatican prelates unhappy about his incursions on their authority, and recalled the Vatileaks scandal, in which letters revealing the inner workings of the Holy See were leaked by the butler of Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
On Friday, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi denounced the leaks, stating that “passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal.”
The Pope appointed Cardinal Pell last year to head of the newly formed Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, which was given sweeping powers to reform the Holy See’s finances.
In December, Cardinal Pell said he had found hundreds of millions of dollars hidden off the books at the Vatican, and blamed departments that would “lurch along, disregarding modern accounting standards”, although critics argued the money was being properly administered.
Cardinal Pell said it was impossible for anyone “to know accurately what was going on overall”. He suggested that the Italian prelates who traditionally handle the Vatican’s cash were less interested in transparency than Anglo-Saxon accountants.
Los Angeles Times