Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, has proclaimed his innocence and said he has been the victim of “relentless character assassination” after he was charged on summons with historical sex offences.
Speaking in Rome at the Holy See Press Office this afternoon, Cardinal Pell said “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me”.
Pell said he would take leave from his position as the Vatican’s finance chief to return to Australia to fight the charges.
“I want to say one or two brief words about my situation, these matters have been under investigation now for two years,” he said.
“There have been leaks from the media, there has been relentless character assassination and for more than a month claims on a decision on whether to lay charges.”
Victoria Police today announced Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in relation to multiple complainants, and a summons had been served on Cardinal Pell’s legal representatives in Melbourne.
Pell, the Vatican’s finance chief and the highest-ranking Catholic cleric to face such charges said he “looked forward” to his day in court.
“I’m looking forward finally for having my day in court. I’m innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”
“I have kept Pope Francis the Holy Father regularly informed during these long months and I have spoken to him on a number of occasions in the last week, I think most recently a day or so ago.
“We talked about my need to take leave to clear my name, I’m very grateful to the Holy Father for giving me this leave to return to Australia.
“I’ve spoken to my lawyers about when this will be necessary and I’ve spoken to my doctors about the best way to achieve this.
“All along I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations.
“News of these charges strengthens my resolve and court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name and then return here back to Rome to work.”
Vatican spokesman said the Secretariat for the Economy will continue its work during Cardinal Pell’s absence.
Cardinal George Pell is reportedly being summonsed over historical sex abuse allegations.
“The Holy See has learned with regret the news of charges filed against Cardinal George Pell for decades-old actions that have been attributed to him,” the spokesman said.
“Having become aware of the charges, Cardinal Pell – acting in full respect of 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, 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, which 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.
“He has co-operated 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.”
Cardinal Pell will not attend public liturgical events such as mass, the spokesman said.
Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher tonight released a statement saying he agrees with comments from Pope Francis that he has always found Pell to be an honest man.
“The George Pell I know is a man of integrity in his dealings with others, a man of faith and high ideals, a thoroughly decent man.”
“I would ask everyone to pray for truth and justice in this present case, pray for our Church at this difficult time, and to continue your prayers for all those affected by sexual abuse,” he said.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said “Cardinal Pell has been treated the same as anyone else in this investigation”.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher has previously said Cardinal Pell is the victim of relentless character attacks and has co-operated in every way with multiple police, parliamentary and royal commission investigations.
The 76-year-old voluntarily participated in an interview with detectives in Rome last October over alleged sexual assaults in Ballarat between 1976 and 1980 and in East Melbourne between 1996 and 2001.
The child abuse royal commission has yet to hand down its findings about how church figures, including Cardinal Pell, handled child abuse allegations in Victoria’s Ballarat Diocese and the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Read more at http://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/06/29/09/14/cardinal-george-pell-to-be-summonsed-on-child-sex-abuse-allegations#A1tiaAkaoLUc1O6K.99