Cardinal George Pell is the Vatican’s new “budget supremo”, saying he is honoured to take up the role to modernise the church bureaucracy to better help the poor and disadvantaged.
Pope Francis on Monday revealed that Australia’s most senior Catholic would become one of the most powerful men in the church, working in a new body with authority over economic and administrative activities within the Holy See and Vatican.
The shake-up – following a wave of scandals at the Vatican bank – is the first major overhaul of the church’s outdated and inefficient bureaucracy in 25 years.
The Vatican said in a statement that Cardinal Pell “has been asked to start work as soon as possible” as head of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Cardinal Pell said in a statement he was “deeply honoured” to have been appointed to the role.
He said the new system included changes to management, improvements in financial planning, reporting and auditing as well as greater involvement of senior lay experts in policy making.
Cardinal Pell said they were “important and very significant moves in the right direction”.
“If we make better use of the resources entrusted to us we can improve our capacity to support the good works of the Church, particularly our works for the poor and disadvantaged … “I am looking forward to implementing these recommendations as requested by the Holy Father.”
Cardinal Pell said the church needed to be open to expert advice and aware of any opportunity to improve the way it conducted its financial administration.
“It is an enormous task and it is important we embrace and implement the recommended changes as soon as practicable.”
Cardinal Pell will shortly return to Sydney from Rome and is expected to take up his new position at the Vatican by the end of March.
The new economics secretariat will oversee the finances of the Holy See – the central governing structure of the Catholic Church – and the Vatican City State – the 44-hectare city state in central Rome which includes the profit-making Vatican Museums and Vatican’s post office.
Tim Fischer, Australia’s first ambassador to the Holy See, says it’s a wise move by Pope Francis to appoint Cardinal Pell.
“This is long overdue and I had urged this step in my recent book on Rome,” Mr Fischer told AAP from Oslo.
“I wish Cardinal Pell well in this new role heading the new department.”
The Catholic Church in Australia is currently under the microscope of a royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse.
Cardinal Pell was criticised in late 2013 for his evidence to a separate state parliamentary inquiry but was publicly backed by fellow high-profile Catholic Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
The Catholic Church in Australia will now begin the process of finding a new Archbishop of Sydney to replace Cardinal Pell.