June 30 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Cardinal Pell denies sex abuse charges ahead of Melbourne court appearance

Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell of Sydney has denied all reports following sex offence charges in his home country of Australia

Set to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on July 18, Cardinal Pell has insisted that the charges are false, stating that ‘the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent’ to him.

He has also criticised the way in which the investigation has been conducted, saying: “There have been leaks to media, there has been relentless character assassination — and for more than a month a decision on whether to bring charges.”

Victoria Police’s deputy commissioner, Shane Patton, said: “Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges… and there are multiple complainants,” adding that the charges were ‘historical sexual assault offences.’

A statement released on behalf of Cardinal Pell said he is ‘looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously.’

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Vice President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, urged that he is entitled to the ‘presumption of innocence, like any other member of the public, until his case in heard at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18.’

“The Cardinal has denied all allegations,” he continued. “In the past the Cardinal has consistently cooperated with the civil authorities, and justice now needs to run its course.”

Deputy Commissioner Patton has insisted that Cardinal Pell has been ‘treated the same as anyone else’ in the investigation.

Cardinal Pell was previously accused of abuse in 2002, but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation also aired accusations from two men last year that Cardinal Pell had touched them inappropriately in the 1970s.

Cardinal Pell has strongly denied the claims, believing them to be a ‘scandalous smear campaign.’

“The Holy See has learned with regret the news of charges filed in Australia against Cardinal George Pell for decades-old actions that have been attributed to him,” read a Vatican statement. “Having become aware of the charges, Cardinal Pell, acting in full respect for civil laws, has decided to return to his country to face the charges against him, recognising the importance of his participation to ensure that the process is carried out fairly, and to foster the search for truth.

“The Holy Father, having been informed by Cardinal Pell, has granted the cardinal a leave of absence so he can defend himself.

“During the Prefect’s absence, the Secretariat for the Economy will continue to carry out its institutional tasks.“The Secretaries will remain at their posts to carry forward the ordinary affairs of the dicastery, donec aliter provideatur.

“The Holy Father, who has appreciated Cardinal Pell’s honesty during his three years of work in the Roman Curia, is grateful for his collaboration, and in particular, for his energetic dedication to the reforms in the economic and administrative sector, as well as his active participation in the Council of Cardinals.

“The Holy See expresses its respect for the Australian justice system that will have to decide the merits of the questions raised.

“At the same time, it is important to recall that Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors; has cooperated in the past with Australian authorities (for example, in his depositions before the Royal Commission); has supported the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; and finally, as a diocesan bishop in Australia, has introduced systems and procedures both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse.”

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