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Pontiff grants Cardinal Pell leave of absence to face abuse charges in Australia

June 29, 2017

Cardinal George Pell, the prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, has been ordered to appear in a Melbourne court on July 26 to face sexual abuse charges.

The charges stem from allegations made by “multiple complainants,” according to a deputy police commissioner. In a separate hearing on July 6, a judge will decide whether to release details about the charges.

“I am looking forward finally to having my day in court,” Cardinal Pell said at a press conference. “I repeat that I am innocent of these charges. They are false.”

Cardinal Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be charged with sexual abuse. Pope Francis has said that he will not comment on the charges “until the justice system passes judgment.”

Following the filing of the charges, the Holy See Press Office issued the following statement:

The Holy See has learned with regret the news of charges filed in Australia against Card. George Pell for decades-old actions that have been attributed to him.

Having become aware of the charges, Card. Pell, acting in full respect for civil laws, has decided to return to his country to face the charges against him, recognizing 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 Card. 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 [until otherwise provided].

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 (C9).

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 Card. 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.

Cardinal Pell told reporters that he had consulted with doctors in preparation for the trip to Australia. (A heart condition had prevented an earlier trip to testify before the royal commission on sexual abuse; he gave his testimony by video link.) He said that he was happy the legal process would allow him to clear his name, after a two-year investigation characterized by leaked information and “relentless character assassination.”

 
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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Jun. 29, 2017 7:34 PM ET USA

    This is a sad turn of events. Guilty or not, Holy Mother church is wounded. There is much to forgive here, but no more sinning on either side. Please.

  • Posted by: Archpriest - Jun. 29, 2017 6:57 PM ET USA

    Enough's enought! While abuse needs to expunged from the Body of Christ and victms healed, too many good men have suffered through SNAP, through the antics of money-grubbing lawyers and dollar sign worshipping non-victims. In so many ways I blame the bishops who failed to take action themselves and then, when publicly confronted with the facts, threw even many innocent priests under the episcopal buses of their own timidity. "Would that we had the bishops of yore..." like Saint Thomas a Becket.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 29, 2017 6:18 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Pell needs our prayers for a complete resolution to the situation. Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for him.