End of road for Pell, Vatican insiders say

End of road for Pell, Vatican insiders say

Vatican insiders are already ­preparing to pension off George Pell, regardless of the ­outcome of any court case on historic sex ­offences.

Vatican insiders are already ­preparing to pension off George Pell, regardless of the ­outcome of any court case on historic sex ­offences.

The Australian has been told it is very unlikely Cardinal Pell will return to Rome in his high-profile role managing Vatican finances because the Pope, while supportive of Cardinal Pell, is seeking to fend off his harshest critics and minimise reputational damage.

Cardinal Pell emphatically claimed to have been subjected to a relentless character assassination, referring to media reports in Australia, but he has not enjoyed blanket support from within cardinal circles at the Vatican.

Always forthright, Cardinal Pell created several enemies as he sought to reform church fin­ances and bring international ­accoun­tancy standards to the multibillion-dollar ­finances of the church.

“That is the end of the road for George Pell in the Vatican, regardless of the outcome — he will be pensioned off when the court case finishes,’’ a Vatican insider told The Australian.

Such a scenario does not feature in the plans of Cardinal Pell, who stated he wanted to return to Rome to continue his work once he had cleared his name.

“News of these charges strengthens my resolve and the court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name and return here to Rome to work,” he said.

Yet his appearance inside the Holy See press office may prove to be one of his final appearances at the Vatican.

Officials said he would no longer take part in any official ­Vatican duties as of yesterday, until further notice.

Officially, Cardinal Pell has been given leave of absence, but at the age of 76, ­he is already a year past normal ­retirement age, which offers the church a ready ­explanation to dispense with his services.

The charging of Cardinal Pell came as a huge shock within the Vatican.

Experienced Vatican reporter Paddy Agnew, of the Irish Times, said: “This will have rocked the Pope. Cardinal Pell is one of his top aides, and the Pope will know that there will be a reputational ­fallout from this.

“This will be used by the Pope’s critics — and there are many of them jumping up and down with delight, using this against Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis might have been slow to understand the weight of the sex abuse allegations but he has learned a lot and he will not in any way minimise it or push under ­carpet. He has learned that will be a big mistake to cover it up,’’ Agnew said.

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