Vati-leaks Part II? Cardinal Pell Targeted in Italian Media

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, attends Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican last November.

The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, came out swinging today in response to a collection of articles published in the Italian weekly L’Espresso.

“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,” Father Lombardi said. “The fact that complex economic or legal issues are the subject of discussion and diverse points of view should be considered normal. In light of the views expressed, the Pope issues guidelines, and everybody follows them.”

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The articles purport to show internal struggles within the Vatican on ongoing economic reforms. L’Espresso reported in its Friday editions that Cardinal George Pell’s economy secretariat had run up a half-million euros in expenses in its first six months of its existence. According to AP, the total includes seemingly legitimate expenses, including computers and printers, but also a 2,508 euro bill from the famed Gamarelli clergy tailor.

Vatican watchers suggest the leak has been intended to discredit Cardinal Pell, who has been aggressively seeking to reform Vatican financial institutions and processes.

“The article makes direct personal attacks that should be considered undignified and petty,” Father Lombardi said in Rome. “And it is untrue that the Secretariat for the Economy is not carrying on its work with continuity and efficacy. In confirmation of this, the Secretariat is expected in the next few months to publish the financial statements for 2014 and the estimated budgets for 2015 for all of the entities of the Holy See, including the Secretariat itself.”

UPDATED: The Secretariat for the Economy issued the following statement today:

Reports of a discussion between the Holy Father and Cardinal Pell about expenditure by the Secretariat are completely false—there has been no discussion between the Holy Father and Cardinal Pell about such matters. Claims of a conversation are a complete fiction.

Since March 2014 when the Secretariat was initiated, the operational costs of the Secretariat, which include some initial set up costs, were in fact below the budget set when the office was established.

The Secretariat currently has twelve staff working on implementing new financial management routines to improve transparency and accountability. The Secretariat will shortly present to the Council for the Economy the Audited Financial Statements for 2014. This will include a detailed account of all Vatican entities, including the Secretariat for the Economy.... Finally and for the record, Cardinal Pell does not have a Cappa Magna.

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