George Pell: How Italian Media Reacted to the Historical Sexual Offence Charges
June 30, 2017
The charges against George Pell have been heavily covered in the Italian media, with the Cardinal described as a "controversial kangaroo" and Australia's record on sexual abuse criticised.
Australia's most senior Catholic cleric has been ordered to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on July 26, after Victoria Police served charges on his legal representatives.
Pell strongly denied the charges, saying he had been the victim of "relentless character assassination" and looked forward to returning to Australia to clear his name in court.
As head of the Vatican's finances, Pell is considered number three in the Catholic hierarchy, making him the most senior Catholic Church cleric to face such charges in the world in modern times.
The significance of the charges — and Pell's senior position — has seen the story heavily covered by Italian media.
It has appeared on the front page of major news websites including La Repubblica and Corriere Della Sera.
La Republicca referred to Pell as "the controversial kangaroo", a nickname derived "from Australian origins and the ability to fight if cornered".
The website heavily criticised Australia's record on sexual assault in the Catholic Church, calling the country a "paradise of orcs" where "7 per cent of priests [have] been accused of paedophilia" since 1950.
Corriere Della Sera published a detailed analysis of what the charges would mean for the Vatican's finances, which Pell was overseeing reforms for.
It also ran a profile piece on Pell, describing him as a "strong personality, decision maker, good organiser" and an "economic expert" who has been praised by Pope Francis for his "Australian ranger tenacity".
The piece also noted: "Pell has many enemies in the Vatican."
Charges put sexual abuse back on agenda for Pope
Pope Francis has granted Pell leave of his Vatican duties to return to Australia to fight the charges in court.
Chris Lamb, the Rome correspondent for Catholic journal The Tablet, said the Vatican had so far put on a show of support for Pell.
"The Holy See made a statement where they said the Pope believes in the Cardinal's honesty, that he's very grateful for the Cardinal's collaboration on his work in the Vatican," he said.
"When the Cardinal gave his statement, he did so inside the Vatican press office next to the Holy See's spokesman — so, I think that was quite an important symbol of support.
"For the time being the Pope is standing by him. He's clearly giving him to chance to go back to Australia to clear his name."
Victoria Police Deputy Police Commissioner Shane Patton earlier told reporters the charges involved multiple complainants.
A magistrate will decide whether to release the details and the nature of the charges at a separate hearing on July 6.
Lamb said the charges put the issue of sexual abuse back on the agenda for Pope Francis.
"It shows it's not something that's going away from the Church and it's something that's going to have to be constantly looked at and dealt with," he said.
"I think there is still a need for better and policies and procedures in dealing with cases from the Vatican end … they need to get everyone on board to deal with this very serious issue more robustly.
"It's a landmark moment for the wrong reasons in the sense that Cardinal Pell is the highest ranking church leader to ever face formal charges.
"It is a big moment and it will have long term ramifications for the Church."