Cardinal George Pell © Gregorio Borgia
One of the highest-ranking cardinals in the Vatican, finance chief George Pell, temporarily resigns in light of abuse allegations in his native Australia. Pell, however, stressed the allegations were completely false.
Pope Francis has suspended Curia Cardinal George Pell, who is under suspicion of abuse, from his post as Vatican finance chief. This is being done so that Pell can face a court in his native Australia, it said Thursday. At the same time, Pope Francis stressed that Pell had publicly condemned the sexual abuse of minors in the past and had always cooperated closely with Australian authorities.
Earlier, Australian police announced they had opened an investigation into Pell, which, according to Victoria State Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton, involves allegations of abuse that date back some time. There should be several plaintiffs. Patton did not provide further details. Pell is expected to take up the post on 18. July to appear in Melbourne Magistrates' Court.
Pell rejects allegations
Pell denied the abuse allegations. "I have continually and clearly insisted on completely rejecting such accusations," the Australian-born curia cardinal said Thursday morning at the Vatican. He has informed Pope Francis of the developments and will travel to Australia in consultation with his doctors and lawyers "to clear my name," Pell said.
The curia cardinal will no longer participate in public liturgical celebrations, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said. The Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, over which Pell presides, would continue its work as usual in his absence.
The cardinal had already been questioned in Rome in October 2016 by Australian police officers about the abuse allegations. Two men over 40 years old accuse Pell of sexually molesting them in a Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s. At the time, Pell was a priest in the city.
In 2014, Pope Francis appointed the then-Archbishop of Sydney as prefect of the newly created Vatican Secretariat for the Economy. Pell is also a member of the Council of Cardinals, which advises the pope on curia reform.
Allegations of sexual abuse against Pell had also arisen earlier. In 2002, Pell was cleared of abuse allegations by a Melbourne Archdiocese commission of inquiry for lack of evidence. A man had accused Pell of sexually abusing him as a 12-year-old at a Catholic youth camp.
Cardinal Pell has also long faced accusations of involvement in covering up abuse cases as a priest in Ballarat and later as archbishop of Melbourne. In his testimony before the state abuse commission, Pell had vigorously denied allegations of covering up abuse cases.
As Archbishop of Melbourne, however, Pell had also set the first standards for dealing with abuse cases with the "Melbourne Response".