Pope Francis has questioned Australian cardinal George Pell’s spending, at least according to Italy’s prestigious L’Espresso magazine.
The current affairs magazine has branded Cardinal Pell “the “Cardinal of Luxury’’, claiming he last year spent half a million euros ($720,000) in six months setting up his new office after the Pope appointed him to reform Vatican finances.
It claims the Pope questioned Cardinal Pell about the cost, which included furniture, rugs, made-to-measure clothing and business-class flights. The article also states the Pope was critical of an under-sink storage unit that cost €4,600 and asked: “What, is it made of solid gold? Can you tell me how you managed to spend half a million euros?’’
According to the magazine, Cardinal Pell replied: “Your Holiness, trust me. I have purchased only what is needed. I know what I’m doing.’’
L’Espresso says Cardinal Pell — the former archbishop of Sydney — hired his “personal bursar’’, fellow Australian Danny Casey, on a tax-free monthly salary of €15,000.
“The monsignore wants the best for his protege,’’ the article says. “He even rented an apartment for €2,900 per month in Via dei Coronari and has paid for quality furnishings for the office and the residence.’’
The bill, according to the report, included €33,000 for minor renovations, €7,292 for “tapezzeria’’ (wallpaper or upholstery), and nearly €47,000 for furniture and wardrobes.
Mr Casey previously worked as the business manager for the Archdiocese of Sydney, organised World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney and managed the purchase and restoration of a pilgrim house, Domus Australia, in Rome. In his new Vatican position, Mr Casey is in charge of Cardinal Pell’s project management office.
At the time of his appointment last June, he said it had “taken many hours of prayer and reflection before making the decision to relocate to Rome’’.
L’Espresso says the expenditure — which includes computers and office equipment — is “not bad for an entity that is not yet operational’’.
It says that in comparison, another Vatican office with five times more staff members spent €95,000 in the same period.
The article claims that Cardinal Pell regularly flies business class and spent $US1,103 ($1,585) on a flight from Rome to London last year.
“His travelling companion, the Australian priest Mark Withoos, paid only €274 for a seat on the same flight,’’ it says.
Cardinal Pell also allegedly billed the Vatican €2,508 for custom-made clerical clothing from the famed Gamarelli tailor — L’Espresso noted that the clergy usually “pay from their own pocket’’.
L’Espresso says the spending is notable given that Cardinal Pell has ordered a spending review across the Vatican to ensure money is spent helping the poor.
Cardinal Pell ruffled feathers in December when he boasted that he had “discovered’’ hundreds of millions of euros that the Vatican had “tucked away’’.
The Vatican refused to comment on the L’Espresso article.