Cardinal George Pell in hiding as Vatican opponents move to exploit his sex offence charges

Daily Telegraph

Ellen Whinnett in Vatican City, News Corp Australia Network

CARDINAL George Pell has gone to ground, disappearing from his apartment outside the walls of the Vatican as he prepares to return to Australia to fight sex offence charges levelled against him.

The 76-year-old has not been seen at his apartment since he issued a press statement on Thursday morning confirming he would return to Australia in order to clear his name in court.

While staff came and went throughout Thursday and into Friday morning, there was no sign of Cardinal Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic, prompting speculation he had moved into a temporary apartment inside the walls of the Vatican, or even to one of the country retreats owned by the church.

He has been granted a leave of absence by Pope Francis from his job as Vatican treasurer while he returns to Australia to defend himself in a process which will take months, and possibly years, to resolve.

While the Vatican has issued a statement of support, the Pope himself is yet to directly comment on the charges.

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