, SYDNEY, Australia, Mar 1 – Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell insisted he has the “full backing” of Pope Francis as he told an inquiry Tuesday that abuse claims against Australia’s most notorious paedophile priest were not “of much interest” to him.
Pell was giving evidence from a hotel in Rome via video-link to Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney for a second of three days.
- The inquiry is currently focused on the town of Ballarat in the state of Victoria, where Pell grew up and worked, and how the church dealt with complaints, many dating back to the 1970s, against the Catholic clergy.
- On the opening day he admitted the church "mucked up" in dealing with paedophile priests and vowed he would not "defend the indefensible".
The inquiry is currently focused on the town of Ballarat in the state of Victoria, where Pell grew up and worked, and how the church dealt with complaints, many dating back to the 1970s, against the Catholic clergy.
On the opening day he admitted the church “mucked up” in dealing with paedophile priests and vowed he would not “defend the indefensible”.
Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, now head of the Vatican Treasury, met the pontiff after his initial grilling by the commission and told reporters before resuming his evidence on Tuesday: “I have the full backing of the Pope.”
The commission picked up where it left off with intense questioning about priest Gerald Ridsdale, convicted of more than 100 charges of sexual abuse against children, and the number of times he was moved between parishes around Victoria state in the 1970s and 80s.
Pell, who once shared a home with Ridsdale in Ballarat, was probed about a police report that the priest was interfering with children while in nearby Inglewood.
The commission suggested Ridsdale’s offending was common knowledge within the church, but Pell insisted it was never brought to his attention.
“I couldn’t say that I ever knew that everyone knew,” he said. “I didn’t know whether it was common knowledge or whether it wasn’t. It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me.”
The admission of not being interested drew loud gasps of disbelief in the Sydney hearing room and Pell was asked to explain what he meant.
“The suffering, of course, was real and I very much regret that but I had no reason to turn my mind to the extent of the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated,” he said.