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Cardinal George Pell meets Pope Francis for first time since acquittal

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image copyrightReuters

image captionCardinal Pell arrived in Rome at the end of last month

George Pell has met Pope Francis in Rome for the first time since the Australian cardinal’s conviction for child sexual abuse was overturned.

The pair met in a private audience but the Holy See gave no further details.

The Vatican ex-treasurer, 79, was the most senior Catholic figure ever jailed for such crimes but the conviction and six-year term were quashed in April.

Cardinal Pell, who had served a year in jail, said his meeting with the Pope “went very well”.

It is unclear whether he will take another role in the Holy See.

The cardinal, who always maintained his innocence, had left the Vatican in 2017 to fight the charges against him in his home state of Victoria. His case had rocked the Catholic Church, where he had been one of the Pope’s most senior advisers.

The cardinal has maintained a low profile in Sydney, where he was once archbishop, in the months since the High Court of Australia overturned the conviction.

media captionAustralian court frees Cardinal Pell

A jury in December 2018 had found him guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choir boys in St Patrick’s Cathedral in the mid-90s when Archbishop of Melbourne. The High Court ruled the jury had not properly considered all the evidence.

Cardinal Pell had been granted an exemption to leave Australia, which closed its borders in March to incoming and outgoing citizens due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cardinal Becciu and Cardinal Pell had clashed over financial reforms.

Cardinal Pell said of the sacking: “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.”

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