Saturday, April 30, 2016
Pell raises suspicions about suspension of PwC audit
Andrea Tornielli Vatican Insider April 30,2016 In an attempt to quell controversy, last 26 April, the Holy See issued a painstakingly thought out statement , assuring that the suspension of the contract signed with PwC for the general audit of the Vatican’s finances was not a sign of resistance to the financial transparency initiatives, which remains the aim of the reforms that are already underway. The statement issued by the Holy See Press Office called for a calm climate of co-operation between the institutions involved and the need to examine the contract. But two days later, on 28 April, the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Cardinal George Pell, who signed the contract as “Manager of the Holy See”, said that he did not believe what was written in the Vatican statement, raising suspicions about the suspension of the contract with PwC being down to dubious reasons. A statement from Cardinal Pell’s office, released only to some Australian Catholic media , “noted with interest that the so-called ‘concerns’ about the PwC audit and contract were only raised when auditors began asking for certain financial information and were finding it difficult to get answers”. The Australian cardinal and his closest collaborators seem to have dismissed the assurances given in the statement issued by the Holy See and expressed fresh suspicions already played up by many media outlets – especially in the English-speaking world. The suspicion is that the contract was not suspended because of clause-related issues but that this constituted a fully-fledged attempt to stand in the way of transparency. This is a serious accusation that looks to intensify internal disagreement and reinforce the idea of a conflict unfolding between “goodies” (Pell and the Secretariat for the Economy” and “baddies” (the Secretariat of State, APSA and more generally the Italian Curia). The Australian cardinal’s statement also speaks of the surprise visit Pope Francis not surprisingly wished to pay first to APSA and then to the Secretariat for the Economy on the morning of 28 Apri. This is what Pell wrote, mentioning only the visit to his own dicastery: “Pope Francis yesterday paid a visit to Cardinal George Pell and the office of the Secretariat for the Economy and all staff. At the meeting, which lasted an hour, the Holy Father said he fully supported their work and re- emphasised the ongoing need for transparency in continuing with their reforms. He also repeated the need for outside or external professional inclusion and assistance. The statement also confirmed that Cardinal Pell would be continuing his current role for the full five-year term of his appointment.” Vatican Insider has learnt that Cardinal Pell did not attend the Pope’s meeting with the Secretariat for the Economy but only made it for the final part because he had just flown in from Amsterdam. On this occasion Mgr. Alfred Xuereb, the current secretary general of the Secretariat for the Economy, played host. Francis spent some time speaking to him even after the meeting. During the Pope’s “lively” hour-long conversation with the personnel of the Secretariat for the Economy one of the questions raised was the emergence of two groups within the Vatican: the new arrivals who are handsomely paid and work for the Holy See in addition to collaborating with external companies and the staff who already work there, do the same job but receive much lower salaries. The situation was previously addressed by Pope Francis in a letter sent to the Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, dated 14 October 2015. Finally, it is worth noting the final point, which links the Pope’s visit to the Secretariat for the Economy to the confirmation of Pell’s full five-year term. As is commonly known, the cardinal will turn 75 on 8 June 2016: according to Canon Law, all bishops and cardinals are required to step down when they reach this age. The Pope can accept and proceed with a quick replacement, as was the case with Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura under Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Or he can extend their period of service as was the case with the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, who was born on the same day as Pell but three years earlier. He is still serving. The five-year term the Australian prelate – appointed Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy two years ago – mentions in his statement is due to end in February 2019.