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World News

Ex-Vatican treasurer Pell heads back to Rome from Australia

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Former Vatican treasurer George Pell is traveling to Rome this week for the first time since he was acquitted of child sex abuse charges in Australia, a Catholic church spokeswoman confirmed on Monday.

Pell left Rome in July 2017 to face charges for sexually assaulting two choirboys in the late 1990s. He was convicted in December 2018 and served just over a year in jail before Australia’s High Court overturned the conviction in April.

The 79-year-old cardinal has been living in Sydney since his release.

“He always intended to return to Rome,” said Katrina Lee, Pell’s close friend who is an executive adviser to the Archdiocese of Sydney.

She confirmed a report in the Herald Sun newspaper which said Pell was flying to Rome on Tuesday, but said she did not know how long he was going for or the aim of the trip.

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When he left Rome in 2017, Pell was head of the Vatican’s Secretariat of the Economy which was working on cleaning up the church’s vast finances and eliminating abuse.

His trip to Rome comes just days after a powerful Vatican cardinal, Giovanni Becciu, was fired after Pope Francis accused him of embezzlement and nepotism.

Pell and Becciu were at odds over reform of the Vatican’s accounts.

In a statement sent to the Catholic News Agency on Sept 26, Pell said: “The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances. He plays a long game and is to be thanked and congratulated on recent developments.”

“I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria,” Pell said. He was charged with child sex abuse in the Australian state of Victoria.

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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