Ellen Whinnett in Vatican City, News Corp Australia Network
June 30, 2017
THE police decision to lay historic sex offence charges against Australian Cardinal George Pell has triggered a scandal within the Vatican and will further fuel criticism of Pope Francis’ vision for the future of the church.
News of the charges — lodged on the holy day of the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul — sent shockwaves through the Vatican, the independent city state in Rome which is the global headquarters of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Thirty minutes before Pope Francis led a feast-day Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, Pell did something never done before by such a senior Vatican official.
The former Archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, now the third highest-ranked official in the Vatican, faced the world’s media and confirmed he was returning to Australia to fight charges of sex offences laid against him.
The news of the charges, first announced by Victoria Police at 2am Rome time, sparked global headlines, with the international media rushing to the Holy See press office to cover Pell’s press statement.
Paddy Agnew, the Rome correspondent for the Irish Times, told News Corp the situation was unprecedented, with Cardinal Pell the highest-ranked official ever to face such charges.
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