FIRST ON 7: Sydney Archbishop, George Pell, has taken a surprise swipe at the Pope, criticising his leadership, and his retirement during an exclusive interview with Seven News.
The Cardinal was also controversial about sex abuse, saying it's not the biggest problem confronting the Church.
Cardinal Pell arrived in Rome on the weekend, as more scandal came crashing down on top of the Catholic Church.
He said that despite this week’s news about Britain’s top clergyman, the Cardinal Keith O’Brien, being forced to resign over a sex scandal, and the leaking of information about a gay sex-ring at work within the Vatican.
Despite all the controversies, George Pell said that priest paedophilia and sex abuse scandals are not the greatest issue facing his church.
He said that the loss of belief and believers was the greatest challenge facing the Church.
"No, no, I think [the biggest problem] is the spread of unbelief in the first world," the Cardinal said.
Pell’s controversial comments will surely upset a lot of the victims groups across Australia.
It is the first time Cardinal Pell has spoken on television since Pope Benedict made his retirement announcement on February 11.
He also had some criticisms for the outgoing Pope, saying that despite being a great theologian and a brilliant teacher, governance and government wasn’t his strong point.
"He's got to know his theology, but I think I'd prefer... someone who can lead the church and pull it together a bit," Pell said.
The Cardinal also criticised Benedict's retirement, saying it leaves future Pontiffs vulnerable.
"People who might for example disagree with a future pope, whether they mount a campaign to get him to resign."
And he finally addressed the speculation that he himself may be in line for the top job of Pope, saying that it was highly unlikely, but admitted it was possible.
“I’m Catholic, I’m a bishop, I’m a Cardinal, [I’m young] by papal standards, but yes it’s a very outside long shot,” Pell said.
The exclusive interview with George Pell came on the same day that the Vatican finally released details of Pope Benedict’s retirement, including the name that he will inherit as he goes forward.
He will now be called his Holiness Benedict the XVI Pope Emeritus.