Cardinal George Pell, a former Vatican treasurer , said the world’s smallest state risks “going bankrupt ” slowly unless it controls mounting deficits, and was hopeful that his successor will rid itself of the resistance to reform that it frustrated him, he said.
Pell, 79, was acquitted of sexual abuse charges in his native Australia in April. His book “Prison Journal,” published this month, recounts his 13 months in solitary confinement in tiny cells after one of the most divisive trials in the country’s history.
In a 90-minute interview with Reuters in his Rome apartment, located in front of a Vatican door, Pell spoke of his darkest moments, how his faith kept him from falling into despair, the damage that the sexual abuse scandal caused to the Church and the current situation of the Vatican.
“Look, it was wrong, it wasn’t like a vacation, but I don’t want to overstate how difficult it was. But there were a lot of dark moments,” he said late Monday, dressed in a black clergyman’s suit with a silver cross hanging around his neck.
The Pope Francisco named Pell, exarzobispo Sydney in 2014 to head the newly created Secretariat of Economy and gave the mandate to clean up the Vatican ‘s finances murky.
Pell went to Australia in 2018 to face charges and never resumed his duties at the Vatican. He returned to Rome in September and has met his successor as treasurer, Jesuit priest Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves.
“I think we are much, much better off than we were,” Pell said of the state of reform of the Vatican’s finances, including the new accounting and controls. “The big challenge before the Vatican is that it is slowly breaking down. That is a bit of an exaggeration (but) it is happening slowly,” he said, adding that he was basing his comments on public information.
The Vatican’s mounting deficits (2020 expected to exceed € 50 million) and an impending deficit of hundreds of million euros in its pension fund portend potential future problems. “You can’t go on like this forever,” Pell said. “All I want is that people face the situation in a very lucid way,” he added.