Holy See ‘regrets’ charges against Cardinal George Pell
The Holy See today issued a statement in response to news that one of the Vatican’s top officials – Cardinal George Pell, 76, above, left, with Pope Francis – had been charged with multiple “historical” sexual offences.
Its press office said:
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.
It noted that Pell has chosen to return to Australia:
In full respect for civil laws… recognizing the importance of his participation to ensure that the process is carried out fairly, and to foster the search for truth.
During his absence, the statement noted that the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy:
Will continue to carry out its institutional tasks.
The Press Office statement goes on to say:
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.
After expressing the Holy See’s “respect for the Australian justice system that will have to decide the merits of the questions raised,” the statement also noted 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.
At a press conference at the Vatican this morning, Pell, who was whisked away from Australia to become the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, forcefully denied charges of “historical” sexual offences filed against him by Australian police.He said:
All along I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations.
In brief remarks ahead of the official statement by the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Pell said he has kept Pope Francis regularly informed of the situation. He expressed his gratitude to the Pope for granting him leave to return to Australia to clear his name.
Pell was critical of media leaks concerning the situation, and lamented “the relentless character assassination” directed against him.
I’m looking forward, finally, to my day in court. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.
Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be charged in the Catholic Church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal, according to the Telegraph.
He was summonsed to appear in an Australian court to face multiple charges. At this stage it is unclear what the charges relate to, but two men, now in their 40s, have said that Pell touched them inappropriately at Eureka swimming pool in the late 1970s, when he was a senior priest in Melbourne.
Pell, who holds a doctorate from Oxford and is a staunch conservative on issues such as homosexuality and abortion, has long been an imposing figure in the Church in Australia and has been heavily criticised for his handling of child sex abuse by Catholic priests.
In reporting on the cardinal’s woes today, BBC Radio 4 played a clip from Tim Minchin’s video, Come Home Cardinal Pell: