Cardinal George Pell to return to Rome for first time since his child abuse allegations were quashed

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Cardinal George Pell is returning to Rome six months after he was acquitted of child sexual abuse in Australia. 

The former Vatican treasurer, 79, will depart Sydney on Tuesday, after living in the city since his release from a Victorian jail, but the reason for his visit is unknown.    

Joshua McElwee, from US newspaper the National Catholic Reporter, said the purpose of Cardinal Pell’s visit to the Vatican was unclear.

‘At the moment he has no official role here,’ Mr McElwee told ABC News.   

Catholic Cardinal George Pell (pictured) is expected to fly to Rome on Tuesday. The former Vatican treasurer came back to Australia in mid-2017 to fight sexual assault charges

Catholic Cardinal George Pell (pictured) is expected to fly to Rome on Tuesday. The former Vatican treasurer came back to Australia in mid-2017 to fight sexual assault charges

Cardinal Pell (pictured leaving court in February 2019) was convicted in December 2018 but the High Court of Australia overturned the conviction in April and he was released from jail

Cardinal Pell (pictured leaving court in February 2019) was convicted in December 2018 but the High Court of Australia overturned the conviction in April and he was released from jail 

Mr McElwee said it was ‘very likely’ Cardinal Pell was travelling to Rome to ‘put his affairs in order’.   

‘I imagine he still has personal items here, things to bring home, perhaps an apartment to clean up. 

‘I don’t know what else he would be doing other than those kind of things,’ he explained.     

Cardinal Pell came back to Australia from Rome in mid-2017 to fight charges related to the sexual assault of two choirboys when he was Archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s. 

He was convicted in December 2018 and served just over a year of a six-year sentence in jail before the High Court of Australia overturned the conviction in April and he was released. 

Cardinal Pell had been head of the Vatican’s Secretariat of the Economy, tasked with cleaning up the church’s vast finances and eliminating abuse, and had taken a leave of absence from that role when he came back to Australia.

‘He always intended to return to Rome,’ Katrina Lee, an adviser to the Archdiocese of Sydney, told Reuters. 

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

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

‘The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances,’ Cardinal Pell told the Catholic News Agency on September 25.

‘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,’ Cardinal Pell said.   

Cardinal Pell (pictured) was previously head of the Vatican's Secretariat of the Economy, tasked with cleaning up the church's vast finances and eliminating abuse

Cardinal Pell (pictured) was previously head of the Vatican’s Secretariat of the Economy, tasked with cleaning up the church’s vast finances and eliminating abuse

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