Cardinal George Pell has fucked off back to Rome (or the Vatican City, more specifically) for the first time since his child sex abuse convictions were overturned in April this year, making him one of the select few Aussies who’ve been able to leave the country since the border shut. And at least one stranded Aussie over there was not happy about the situaiton.

Pell touched down at Rome’s Fiumicino airport today. While a Vatican spokesperson told the AFP news agency there was “currently no meeting planned” between Pell and Pope Francis, Vatican watchers aren’t convinced.

That’s because there’s a huge corruption and embezzlement scandal blazing in the Catholic church at the moment, and Pell was formerly the Vatican’s treasurer known (over there) for his strong anti-corruption bent.

So while he’s not officially on any work duties, Pope watchers reckon Pell will eventually get involved in Vatican politics in some way or another.

But this is a strange reason for a 76-year-old to leave Sydney for Italy, which has suffered severely during the pandemic.

At least one Aussie in Rome even heckled him upon arrival.

“You’re a horrible person! We hate you!” an Australian woman said as SBS News filmed Pell in Rome.

“We’re all waiting for flights to go back [to Australia] and this [bleep] can just walk out here freely.

“We are devastated that he’s here in Rome, and we hope that Pope Francis does something about this.”

The Australian government’s been notoriously strict about who it lets out of the country during the pandemic, and completely opaque about its processes.

However we do know there’s been an uptick in approvals granted lately, with around 62% of applicants in August getting approved to leave Australia, according to The Sun-Herald.

To be approved to leave the country, the Australian Border Force says you need “a compelling reason and will remain overseas for at least three months”, typically for business or in some cases on compassionate grounds.

However as recently as April, the Herald Sun reported Victoria Police were conducting a secret investigation into other allegations of child sexual abuse against Pell dating from the 1970s.

Which makes you wonder what his “compelling reason” to get the fuck out of here during a global pandemic was.

Image: Getty Images / Franco Origlia