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Vatican spokesman praises Cardinal Pell’s ‘dignified and coherent’ testimony

Fr Federico Lombardi (PA)

Cardinal George Pell’s testimony to Australia’s child abuse commission was “dignified and coherent”, a Vatican spokesman has said.

Fr Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See press office, said in a statement: “Cardinal Pell must be accorded the appropriate acknowledgement for his dignified and coherent personal testimony.”

Fr Lombardi said the cardinal’s appearance before the commission had given “an objective and lucid picture of the errors committed in many ecclesial environments (this time in Australia) during the past decades. This is certainly useful with a view to a common ‘purification of memory’.”

Cardinal Pell has come under pressure after allegations that he was complicit in child sexual abuse earlier in his career. He has repeatedly denied that he was responsible, claiming that others kept him in the dark.

The cardinal said last week that he would only resign from his position in charge of reforming Vatican finances if the Pope asked him to. Fr Lombardi’s statement suggests this is unlikely to happen at the moment.

A resignation “would be taken as an admission of guilt”, the cardinal said in a TV interview with Sky News Australia.

During last week’s hearings, which took place over four days and a total of around 20 hours, Cardinal Pell faced detailed questioning via video link about past cases.

The cardinal admitted that he “should have done more” about rumours of sexual abuse, but said he thought the authorities were dealing with them.

After the hearings, Cardinal Pell met a group of child abuse survivors and relatives. They discussed ways to improve help for survivors.

Fr Lombardi said the publicity over Cardinal Pell, and over the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, about clerical abuse in the US Archdiocese of Boston, would help in “the long march in the battle against abuse of minors in the universal Catholic Church and in today’s world”.