Australia

Vatican cardinal offers Australia abuse case testimony

Cardinal George Pell attends a press conference at the Vatican Radio headquarters, in Rome, Tuesday, 31 March 2015 Image copyright AP

The Vatican's finance chief George Pell has offered to testify in a high-profile Australian inquiry into institutional child sex abuse.

The cardinal was formerly the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia's most senior Catholic official.

He is accused of silencing a victim of a paedophile priest and aiding the priest's move to another parish.

Australia is investigating how schools, churches and the government responded to child abuse cases.

'Horrified'

This week a royal commission began hearing testimony from victims in Ballarat in the state of Victoria, where Gerald Ridsdale had sexually abused dozens of boys in various parishes between the 1950s and 1970s.

Mr Pell has been accused of being complicit in moving Ridsdale around the state, and of attempting to bribe Ridsdale's nephew into keeping quiet about his abuse.

Last Thursday the commission released a letter from Mr Pell saying he was "horrified" by the accounts given in Ballarat.

"I am also deeply saddened by the way the church authorities have failed in responding to these crimes," he said.

"I am deeply to committed to assisting the royal commission and to doing anything I can to help survivors (including) giving evidence in person if asked to do so."

Ridsdale, 81, was first sentenced to jail in 1993 for offences against child victims.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ridsdale also testified this week via videolink from jail

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was formed in April 2013, following pressure from lawmakers amid police claims that the Roman Catholic Church had concealed evidence of paedophile priests.

There were revelations that child abusers were being moved from place to place instead of having their crimes reported and investigated.

There were also accusations that adults had failed to stop further acts of abuse.

A consultation paper released in January estimated that at least 65,000 people were affected and may be entitled to government compensation.

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