Victoria Police have charged Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest member of the Catholic Church, with historic sex offences. The charges have arisen from multiple complainants, although the final decision was made by police to charge Pell.
These charges relate to several complaints made over the last 18 months in relation to incidents occurring in the 1970s. According to The Australian, these charges include assaults on “boys at a Ballarat pool in the 1970s and allegations of assault at St Patrick’s cathedral in Melbourne, when he was archbishop.”
Prior to this, Pell has never been charged in relation to any accusations of sexual assault or misconduct. Victorian Police issued the following statement in regard to George Pell’s charges.
“Although it is still in the early hours of the morning in Rome, Cardinal George Pell has been informed of the decision and action of Victoria Police. He has again strenuously denied all allegations. Cardinal Pell will return to Australia, as soon as possible, to clear his name following advice and approval by his doctors who will also advise on his travel arrangements. He said he is looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously.”
Pell later released the following statement.
“I am innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”
Cardinal Pell, 76, is currently living in the Vatican City in Rome where he works as the secretariat of the economy to the Vatican. He has held this position since 2013.
It is expected Pell will return to Australia to contest the charges. However, as Jacquelin Magnay, a journalist currently residing in Rome, points out, Pell may be covered by an extradition treaty between Italy and Australia.
“George Pell lives in Rome outside of Vatican walls. Australia has extradition treaty with Italy but not with Vatican City,” Magnay explained in a tweet.
However, The Australian stated Pell looking forward to having his “day in court.” Previously, Pell has suffered ill-health and he is reportedly in negotiations with his lawyers and his doctors about the “best way to achieve his return.”
The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, asked members of the Catholic Church to pray for truth in this case.
“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.”
According to the video statement given by Victoria Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton and released via Victoria Police’s Facebook page, Cardinal George Pell has been charged on summons to appear before the Melbourne magistrate court on July 18.
While charges have only just been laid against George Pell, rumors have been circulating recently that the cardinal would be charged. The Australian reported on the weekend that it was inevitable Pell would be charged at some point.
“There is a growing resignation that charges will almost certainly be laid, plunging the church into what would be an unprecedented scandal,” they wrote. The article also suggested that Pell would resign as the head of the Vatican’s finances if charges were laid.
George Pell was originally behind the first church compensation scheme set up for victims of clergy-related sexual abuse. However, this has not stopped people accusing him of sex crimes himself. The matter was further exacerbated when George Pell appeared to offer support to Gerald Ridsdale, a priest and notorious offender, by walking into court with him in the 1990s.
In 2016, the Herald Sun revealed that Victoria Police were looking into allegations against George Pell. Since then, matters have gathered speed, resulting in charges being laid against the cardinal today.
[Featured Image by Don Arnold/Getty Images]