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World News

Cardinal George Pell 'to return to the Vatican' after being cleared of child abuse allegations

by Press Association

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis' former finance minister, will reportedly return to the Vatican for the first time since he was cleared of child abuse allegations in Australia five months ago.

Mr Pell will fly back to Rome on Tuesday, Herald-Sun newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt wrote.

He currently lives in a Sydney seminary and the Sydney Archdiocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr Pell's travel plans.

His reported return follows Pope Francis firing one of the cardinal's most powerful opponents, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, over a financial scandal.

Mr Pell was regarded as the third highest-ranking Vatican official and was attempting to wrestle the Holy See's opaque finances into order when he returned to his native Australia in 2017 to clear himself of decades-old allegations of child sex abuse.

Instead, Mr Pell became the most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse crimes.

He served 13 months in prison before Australia's High Court acquitted him in April of molesting two choir boys in the late 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

In his first television interview after his release, Mr Pell linked his fight against Vatican corruption with his prosecution in Australia.

And last week Mr Pell "thanked and congratulated" Francis for firing Mr Becciu.

"I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria," he said, referring to his home state where he was convicted.

The 79-year-old said in April he planned to return to Rome when the coronavirus pandemic allowed him to pack up his apartment, but he intended to make Sydney his home.

Mr Becciu said he was fired after Francis told him that documents from the Italian financial police alleged the 72-year-old cardinal had embezzled 100,000 euros (£91,000).

His name had previously been caught up in a financial scandal involving the Holy See's investment in a London real estate venture.

But Mr Becciu - who denies any wrongdoing - said that investment was not raised in his conversation on Thursday with Francis.

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