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Australian Cardinal Pell interviewed by police over child abuse allegations

Cardinal George Pell has been interviewed in Rome by Australian detectives over child abuse allegations dating back to the 1970s. The cleric denies the charges.

The office of Cardinal George Pell released a statement on Wednesday repeating his July rejection of "all and every allegation of sexual abuse."

The Cardinal, who is the Vatican's Australian-born financial controller, was interviewed in Rome last week, by Victoria Police detectives over child abuse allegations, Victoria Police confirmed in a statement on Wednesday. "Three members of Victoria Police travelled to Rome last week where Cardinal George Pell voluntarily participated in an interview regarding allegations of sexual assault," the statement confirmed.

"As a result of the interview further investigations are continuing. We are not prepared to comment further at this time," the police statement added.

The Cardinal "will continue to cooperate with Victoria Police until the investigation is finalised," his office confirmed. "The Cardinal has no further comment at this time," it said.

There have been allegations about inappropriate behavior in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s and complaints relating to his conduct with choirboys at St Patrick's cathedral in the 1990s when Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne.

Royal commission enquiry

In July, the chief commissioner of Victoria police, Graham Ashton, confirmed allegations against Pell had been referred to the Office of Public Prosecutions for a recommendation as to whether police should drop the investigation, investigate further or lay charges.

Pell's office released a statement in July saying "The cardinal does not wish to cause any distress to any victim of abuse. However, claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong."

The Cardinal gave evidence via videolink in March to Australia's royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. At the time he conceded that the Catholic Church had made "catastrophic" choices by refusing to believe abused children.

Vatikan Petersplatz Heiligsprechungen (Reuters/T. Gentile)

Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican

The 75-year-old Pell took up his post at the Vatican in 2014 and is one of the most trusted aides of Pope Francis. In August, Pope Francis declined to address the accusations against Pell saying he wanted the investigation to be completed before made any comments: "We must wait for justice and not make judgments ahead of time," Pope Francis said in response to a question while traveling on the papal airplane. In 2002 it was revealed that US bishops in the Boston area had moved abusers from parish to parish instead of taking disciplinary action against them.

jm/kl (AP, Reuters)

 

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