Australia

Cardinal George Pell: Australia police to consider advice on abuse allegations

Australian Cardinal George Pell holds a candle as Pope Francis leads the Easter vigil mass in Saint Peter"s basilica at the Vatican, Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cardinal George Pell is Australia's most senior Catholic official

Police have received legal advice about sexual assault allegations involving Australia's most senior Catholic figure, Cardinal George Pell.

Cardinal Pell, who is treasurer to the Vatican and is based in Vatican City, has repeatedly denied "all such accusations" against him.

Prosecutors in Australia's Victoria state have given advice to police, who will decide whether to lay charges.

The claims relate to alleged incidents in the 1970s, local media said.

Victoria Police said detectives from Taskforce Sano, which investigates child sexual abuse, would "take time to consider [prosecutors'] advice".

"As this remains an ongoing investigation, we will not be commenting further at this time," a police statement said, without naming Cardinal Pell.

Cardinal's strong denials

Sydney's Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher said it was not known "if or what" recommendations had been made by prosecutors.

"What is clear, however, is that Cardinal Pell has co-operated in every way with multiple police, parliamentary and royal commission investigations," he said.

"Even churchmen have a right to 'a fair go'."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing

The Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) last year aired allegations by two men, now aged in their forties, who claimed Cardinal Pell had touched them inappropriately in the 1970s.

Cardinal Pell strongly denied the allegations at the time, describing them as a "scandalous smear campaign".

He was voluntarily interviewed by Australian detectives in Rome last year. No charges have ever been laid against him.

Last year, the cardinal gave evidence to a royal commission - Australia's highest form of inquiry - about whether he knew paedophiles were active in churches under his watch.

He told the hearing that he was deceived by a senior clergyman over one paedophile priest, but admitted he did not act on an abuse claim.

New book

Earlier this week, Cardinal Pell accused an Australian publisher and some media outlets of interfering with justice over the publication of a new book.

The book by ABC reporter Louise Milligan details fresh abuse claims against Cardinal Pell, alleged to have taken place in the 1990s.

A spokesman for the cardinal said on Monday: "He repeats his vehement and consistent denials of any and all such accusations, and stands by all the evidence he has given to the royal commission."

In February, the royal commission heard 7% of Australia's Catholic priests allegedly abused children between 1950 and 2010.

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