mercoledì 30 dicembre 2020

Australian bishops ask Pope to investigate missing billions. Vatican transfers did not reach the church, says Archbishop of Brisbane

(Bernard Lagan, The Times)
Roman Catholic bishops are to formally request that the Pope launches an investigation into how A$2.3 billion (£1.3 billion) was transferred from the Vatican to Australia over six years without their knowledge.
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference said that it was “astonished at the scale of the transfers” from the Holy See’s secretariat of state between 2014 and this year.
No Australian Catholic, diocese, charity, religious order or church entity received any of the billions of dollars, according to Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane and the president of the Conference.
The bishops’ action comes days after a report from the Australian government agency responsible for detecting criminal abuse of the financial system (AUSTRAC) found the transfers. The Australian federal police is now investigating some of the transactions.
Archbishop Coleridge told The Australian: “What is certain in the middle of great uncertainties is that Australian bishops did not know about these transfers until the AUSTRAC disclosure last week and we were astonished at the scale of the transfers.”
The former head of the Vatican’s finances, the Australian Cardinal George Pell, raised the possibility in an Italian television interview two weeks ago that his enemies within the church may have conspired to frame him on sexual assault charges because of his efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances.
He also alluded to the possible secret use of Vatican funds to destroy his reputation, saying: “It is much worse if someone inside the church wishes to destroy you.
“It’s for this reason that I hope there will never be enough evidence to prove Vatican money was used if not to corrupt directly, then at least to poison the public atmosphere against me. I hope there is no proof of this for the good of the church.”
Cardinal Pell was called to the Holy See in 2014 by Francis to take charge of the Vatican’s finances because of concerns held by the Pope about their administration.
He is said to have clashed with the secretariat of state, especially its former deputy, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu.
Cardinal Pell returned home in 2017 after police in the Australian state of Victoria announced that they were charging him with a series of historical sexual assault offences. In December 2018 a Melbourne jury convicted him on five charges and he was jailed.
However, in April this year Australia’s highest court quashed the convictions, saying that the jury ought to have entertained doubt. Cardinal Pell, 79, has since returned to the Vatican.
Archbishop Coleridge, who served in the Vatican secretariat of state for four years, said that he was aware of claims that “cipher accounts” were being used in the Vatican’s name by people who were not part of the Holy See to make international transfers and investments.
On Monday the Pope signed a new law that stripped the Vatican’s secretariat of state of all its financial and real estate assets amid a growing investment scandal. Cardinal Becciu, who was asked to resign by the Pope over a different allegation in September, has denied any wrongdoing.