Pope names new economic chief to succeed disgraced cardinal

FILE PHOTO: Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell walks towards the Melbourne Magistrates Court with Australian police in Australia, October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Dadswell/File Photo

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Thursday named the Vatican’s new economy minister to succeed Cardinal George Pell, who is appealing a conviction in his native Australia for sexually assaulting two teenaged choir boys.

The post, formally known as Prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy, has been vacant since Pell took leave of absence in 2017.

The new head is Spanish Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, 60, a Jesuit like the pope.

His appointment was announced a day after Australia’s High Court agreed to hear a final appeal from Pell.

Pell, who is serving a six-year jail sentence handed down by a lower court in March, turned to the High Court after a first appeal upheld his conviction.

His absence had left one of the Vatican’s most important economic departments without a leader.

The Secretariat of the Economy, created by Pope Francis in 2014 to help oversee the implementation of financial reforms, coordinates the Vatican’s economic and administrative affairs.

The post of auditor-general has also been vacant since 2017, when Libero Milone resigned, saying he was forced to step down with trumped-up accusations after discovering evidence of possible illegal activity.

The Vatican denies this and says he was spying on co-workers.

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