Cardinal George Pell is the most senior Catholic cleric to face charges of historical sexual assault claims, and the Italian media is providing close coverage of the 76-year-old cleric and details of his latest setback.
Earlier this week, Italian newspaper websites ran prominent pictures of Pell, and included footage of sex-abuse survivors in Australia who last year attended the Cardinal’s questioning by the Australia’s Royal Commission into child sex abuse. Italian social media commentary has also been very extensive, with tweet mentions of Cardinal George Pell topping 54,000 in just 24 hours.
The Herald Sun reported that Cardinal Pell was quick to tell journalists that the decision by Victorian police on Thursday to charge him has only strengthened his resolve to prove his innocence. Pell said he’s looking forward to finally having his day in court following a two-year investigation, leaks to the media, and “relentless character assassination.”
Cardinal George Pell is Vatican Treasurer, the third most powerful person in the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis has granted him leave of absence to return to Australia to face the charges.
On its website on Thursday, the centrist Corriere Della Sera newspaper said that the Cardinal was “the highest representative of the Catholic Church ever involved in such a case.” The liberal La Repubblica noted that Cardinal Pell was the “highest ecclesiastical exponent” ever charged with sex abuse.
“The shadow of pedophilia and rape returns to obscure the church.”
The paper said the “controversial kangaroo” had been called in by Pope Francis to clean up the Vatican finances, saying that Australia was “a paradise of the orcs” with seven percent of priests accused of pedophilia. In Italian, orco is a demon or monster.
La Repubblica said the latest development in the Cardinal Pell saga had “plunged the Vatican into a solemn state” on the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul.
The Australian police announced on Thursday that they will be pursuing charges against Cardinal George Pell over allegations of historical sexual abuse against minors. Pell has spoken to both his lawyers and doctors about how and when he’ll be needed in Australia, because he says he’s been advised not to take long-haul flights due to a heart condition.
A statement from the Holy See on Thursday said it learned of the charges “with regret” but respected the Australian justice system.
“At the same time, it’s important to recall that Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors.”
Cardinal George Pell, a former Melbourne and Sydney archbishop and Ballarat priest, has been ordered to appear on July 26 in the Melbourne magistrates Court.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Cardinal George Pell is featuring heavily in Italian media now that he’s been ordered to face charges of historical sexual assault claims, with Italian news outlets openly attacking Australia’s record on sexual assault.
Europe correspondent Nick Mueller said the bells may be ringing in Vatican City but this is not a day of celebration for Cardinal George Pell.
Sexual abuse victims in Australia have called for Cardinal Pell to be stood down, saying, “It’s time for him to come home.” The Sydney Morning Herald described Cardinal George Pell as a “strong personality, decision maker, and good organizer” with “centralizing” tendencies. The paper said World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 was his “managerial masterpiece.”
The description of Australia as “a paradise of the orcs” was based on data released by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse whereby 75 Catholic authorities were studied over the 60-year period between the years 1950 and 2010. Shockingly, it was determined by the Commission that seven percent of priests were alleged perpetrators.
[Featured Image by Don Arnold/Getty Images]