Australian Archbishops write open letter to support Cardinal George Pell, a ‘man of integrity’

By Shannon Deery
Herald Sun
June 04, 2015

Cardinal George Pell denies all allegations of wrongdoing.
Photo by Timothy Clapin

AUSTRALIA’s most senior Catholics have thrown their support behind Cardinal George Pell amid calls for him to step aside from his post at the Vatican.

The Cardinal was this week formally asked by the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse to appear at a second round of hearings at Ballarat later this year.

It followed damning evidence during two weeks of hearings last month that alleged the Cardinal had been involved in a widespread cover-up of child sexual abuse in Ballarat in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cardinal Pell, who denies all allegations of wrongdoing, had offered to attend the hearings before the formal request was made.

Pressure has been mounting for the Cardinal to step down from his top post at the Vatican where as the Secretariat for the Economy he controls the church’s finances.

In an open letter published yesterday five archbishops and two bishops endorsed the Cardinal as a man of integrity.

The joint-statement was signed by the Archbishops of Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart and Canberra-Goulbourn as well as Broken Bay bishop Peter Comensoli and Sydney’s auxiliary bishop.

“We know Cardinal Pell well from working with him over many years in different capacities,” they said.

“He is a man of integrity who is committed to the truth and to helping others, particularly those who have been hurt or who are struggling.

“His style can be robust and direct; he does not wear his heart on his sleeve. But underneath he has a big heart for people.”

The letter highlighted the controversial Melbourne Response, a program put in place by the Cardinal just months after becoming Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

The program has been the subject of much criticism with suggestions victims were encouraged not to report allegations to police.

“Cardinal Pell was one of the first bishops in the world to put in place a comprehensive Church response to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and to provide survivors with redress and counselling,” the letter said.

“He has responded to criticisms that have been made of his handling of these matters over the years, acknowledged mistakes frankly, and apologised for them.

“We appreciate the Cardinal’s strong and unfailing support for the important work of the Royal Commission and his constant readiness to assist the Royal Commission whenever he is asked to do so.”

The letter followed a similar letter by Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart on Monday calling on Australians to give Cardinal Pell “a fair go”.

“Cardinal Pell has acknowledged that he has made mistakes,” Archbishop Hart said.

“My experience of Cardinal Pell, however, is that he has been willing to admit to and apologise for those mistakes.

“I hope all Australians who believe in a fair go will give Cardinal Pell the opportunity to answer the criticisms that have been raised … before drawing any final conclusions,” he said.


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