Pell mentioned the controversial property deal in his journal, calling it “only one such disaster and a major part of a much wider crisis” at the Vatican.
“I fear for the financial future,” he continued in his journal entry for Oct. 24, 2019. “Chickens come home to roost, and a poorer bankrupt Church can do nothing material to help the poor.”
In his interview with CNA, Cardinal Pell said that at the time the controversial London deal was reported by the press, “I wasn’t quite sure where it was going.”
“But I’m not a bit sad that news of it has come out, because the Vatican has just lost such an enormous amount of money. The pope said to me he thought it was $150 million. I’m not sure. And the judge in the Torzi case in England wasn’t able to quantify just what the losses were,” he said.
Pell also called on the Vatican to improve its prosecution of financial crimes.
The Vatican had previously arrested Torzi in 2020 on charges of two counts of embezzlement, two counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering, alleging he was part of a conspiracy to defraud the Secretariat of millions of euros.
In March, a British Judge reversed the Vatican’s seizure of Torzi’s accounts, stating that the “non-disclosures and misrepresentations” provided by the Vatican “are so appalling that the ultimate sanction” was to reverse the seizure of assets. He added that there was not “reasonable cause” to believe Torzi “benefitted” from criminal acts in the case.
Cardinal Pell cited the matter to call for better prosecutors at the Vatican.
“I think the single word I remember from it was ‘appalling’,” Pell said of the judge’s words. “So, I said to one or two senior people here in the Vatican, for goodness’ sake, get good lawyers, so that you can prosecute your case competently and justly.”
In his journal, Pell warned of the Vatican’s annual financial deficits as one of two “major challenges” facing the Holy See, noting that future popes “will face huge financial challenges” if the annual deficits are not addressed.
“The Vatican has only got assets of three or four billion [euros]. But whatever it is, they can’t afford to keep losing €50 [million] or even €20 million a year forever,” he told CNA, noting that expenses from the pension fund could also balloon to hundreds of millions of euros in a decade.
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“So, these things have to be faced up to, and dealt with. Because, as I often say, we don’t know how many people go to heaven and hell, but we do know when we’re losing money,” he said.
In March, the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy released a budget for the 2021 year, showing a projected deficit of nearly $60 million.
Regarding the future of Peter’s Pence – the Vatican’s annual collection for the pope’s charitable causes and the Roman Curia – Pell expressed hope in his successor’s oversight of the fund.
“I know my successor Fr. [Juan A.] Guerrero is a competent man, and an honest man. And I think the particular challenges of Peter’s Pence are clearly visible, not least the decline in donations. And, please God, this will be faced up to and dealt with,” he said.
Elsewhere in his journal, the cardinal talked about the value of redemptive suffering, figures from Scripture and Church history he grew close to in prison, and his thoughts on the future of the Church.
Regarding redemptive suffering, “I’ve taken to quoting Karl Marx, who had a terrible attack of boils,” Pell said. “And he [Marx] lamented the fact that he had no god to whom he might offer his suffering. He knew what he was missing. If there’s no God, there’s no meaning to suffering whatsoever.”