Proclaiming his innocence after being charged with sexual abuse, Australian Cardinal George Pell said, “I’m looking forward finally to having my day in court.”
“I’m innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me,” he said on 29th June during a brief news conference in the Vatican press office.
Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said Pope Francis had granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence from his position as prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy so that he can work on his defense.
Cardinal Pell, Burke added, will not participate in any public liturgies while his case is being considered.
“These matters have been under investigation now for two years,” Cardinal Pell told the press. “There’s been relentless character assassination, a relentless character assassination, and for more than a month claims that a decision on whether to lay charges was imminent.”
Without giving specifics about the number of charges or the incidents, police in Australia’s Victoria state announced on 29th June that charges had been filed against the cardinal and that he has been called to appear in court on 18th July.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told reporters: “Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in respect of historic sexual offenses and there are multiple complainants relating to those charges.”
Patton also told reporters: “It is important to note that none of the allegations that have been made against Cardinal Pell have obviously been tested in any court yet.”
“Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process and so therefore it is important that the process is allowed to run its natural course,” Patton added.
In his statement, Cardinal Pell said he had kept Pope Francis informed “during these long months” when police and the Australian media were talking about the possibility of charges being made.
Picture: Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves after delivering a statement in the Vatican press office on 29th June. Also pictured is Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman. Speaking after Australian authorities filed sexual abuse charges against him, the cardinal denied all charges and told reporters he looks forward to having an opportunity to defend himself in court. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).