Sexual abuse survivors group raises pressure on Pope Francis following charges against Cardinal Pell
June 30, 20176:13am
Cardinal George Pell has denied he carried out sexual abuse and return to Australia to face charges. Picture: AFP PHOTO / WILLIAM WEST
Victoria Craw, news.com.au
A GROUP of sexual abuse survivors has put pressure on Pope Francis to respond to the child sex abuse charges levelled against Australian Cardinal George Pell.
The US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called for the leader of the Catholic Church to respond and said “sexual abuse thrives when it is allowed to flourish in secrecy”.
“We await Pope Francis’ response to this development. As the head of the Catholic Church, he has promised to work to end the scourge of abuse by his clergy. We expect him to give proof of this by sending Cardinal Pell home immediately to face these charges,” Joelle Casteix said in a statement.
“We are always grateful and encouraged when law enforcement works hard to gather evidence to build a case against a powerful and influential man. We hope that anyone with additional information about this case will contact law enforcement,” she said.
“We also hope that the Australian Government’s long and extensive investigation into institutional abuse inspires other countries to follow in their footsteps and hold similar hearings.”
Australian Cardinal George Pell has declared himself innocent and said he looks forward to defending himself in court. Picture: AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLISource:AFP
Cardinal Pell strongly defended himself against historical sex abuse charges in a press conference in Vatican City, saying “I am innocent” and the idea of sexual abuse is “abhorrent” to him.
Pope Francis’ Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the church leader had learned “with regret” of the charges and granted Pell leave to return to Australia to defend himself.
He said Pell had “openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable” acts of sexual abuse against minors. He has also previously testified to Australia’s Royal Commission into sex abuse where he spoke about his role as a Bishop in Australia.
Pope Francis has previously met with survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy and apologised for the actions of the church.
In 2014 he said the failure of the institution to respond led to “greater suffering” for victims, however critics have said his actions ring hollow and have not gone far enough.
Pope Francis has pledged to clean up the church’s reputation but has received criticism for not going far enough when it comes to victims of abuse. Picture: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP.Source:AP
Cardinal Pell is the highest ranking member of the Catholic Church to face charges against him. He was archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney before Francis appointed him in 2014 to head the Vatican’s new economy secretariat.
On Thursday Cardinal Pell said he “looked forward” to having his day in court and had kept the Pope informed of the situation.
“I’ve kept Pope Francis, the Holy Father, regularly informed during these long months. I have spoken to him on a number of occasions in the last week, I think, most recently, a day or so ago,” he said.
“We talked about my need to take leave to clear my name. So I’m very grateful to the Holy Father for giving me this leave to return to Australia.
Clouds hang over St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican as Cardinal George Pell confirmed he will return to Australia to face sex abuse charges. Picture: AP \
The 76-year-old has previously avoided returning to Australia on doctor’s advice and he described the case against him as a “character assassination”.
“These matters have been under investigation now for two years. There have been leaks to the media. There has been relentless character assassination. A relentless character assassination,” he said.
“And for more than a month, claims that a decision on whether to lay charges was imminent. I’m looking forward, finally, to having my day in court.”
Victoria state Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said police have summonsed Pell to face multiple charges of “historical sexual offences,” meaning offences that generally occurred some time ago.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, who succeeded Cardinal Pell in the role and has known him for almost three decades, says he’s shocked to hear about the charges against the “honest man”.
“The George Pell I know is a man of integrity in his dealings with others, a man of faith and high ideals, a thoroughly decent man,” Archbishop Fisher said in a statement.
Pell was ordered to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18.
— With Wires
READ MORE: http://www.news.com.au/world/europe/sexual-abuse-survivors-group-raises-pressure-on-pope-francis-following-charges-against-cardinal-pell/news-story/217a8f9ab9e2cc20875e5616688d94c7
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