Australia’s Catholic archbishops have released a joint statement in support of Cardinal George Pell, saying he is “a man of integrity”.
The archbishops of Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart and Canberra-Goulburn said the cardinal was “committed to the truth and to helping others, particularly those who have been hurt or who are struggling”.
The statement, which was also supported by Sydney’s auxiliary bishop and the Bishop of Broken Bay, said Cardinal Pell had been one of the first bishops in the world to implement a Church response to allegations of abuse by clergy and to provide victims with counselling.
In the past, the archbishops said, Cardinal Pell had responded to criticisms, “acknowledged mistakes frankly, and apologised for them”.
The statement expressed appreciation for Cardinal Pell’s cooperation with the Royal Commission on institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
The Royal Commission recently aired claims that the cardinal bribed a victim to keep quiet about abuse and was involved in moving Australia’s most prolific pedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, to a different parish. Cardinal Pell has strenuously denied the claims.
Peter Saunders, a member of Pope Francis’s child protection commission, this week called for Cardinal Pell to be removed from his post as the Vatican’s finance chief. But Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne came to the cardinal’s defence, saying he had always been determined to rid the Church of child sex abuse by clergy and provide help for victims.
Cardinal Pell is expected to return to Australia in November or December to give evidence to the Royal Commission’s second hearing in the Diocese of Ballarat.