After Australian police announced that they have charged him on multiple counts of sexual abuse, Cardinal George Pell has maintained his innocence, saying he will take leave from his responsibilities in the Vatican to clear his name.
In comments to journalists during a June 29 news briefing at the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Pell said that with the permission of Pope Francis, he will be taking “leave” from his position as the Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy in order “to clear my name.”
“I am looking forward, finally, to having my day in court. I’m innocent of these charges, they are false,” he said, adding that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”
Throughout the two years he has been fighting the accusations, there have been various media leaks and “relentless character assassination,” he said, insisting he has been “consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations.”
Pell said that he has regularly kept Pope Francis informed of the process. In the past week, the two have spoken on “many occasions” about “my need to take leave to clear my name,” he said, voicing his gratitude to the Pope “for giving me this leave to return to Australia.”
The charging of Cardinal Pell, who in 2013 was tapped to oversee the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy and is a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, makes him the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse.
On behalf of the Holy See, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke voiced respect for the Australian justice system, which “will have to decide the merits of the questions raised.”
However, at the same time, he said “it is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors” and has cooperated with Australian authorities in the past, specifically with his depositions before the Royal Commission.
Moreover, the cardinal has been supportive of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and as a diocesan bishop in Australia, introduced systems and procedures “both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse.”
Burke closed noting that Cardinal Pell will no longer be attending public events while facing the charges, and as such would be absent from the day’s today’s Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, to be celebrated by Pope Francis and attended by all new metropolitan archbishops appointed during the previous year.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.