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Vatican dispute over Australia child abuse inquiry

Vatican finance chief George Pell has summoned his lawyers after a special commissioner for the pope accused him of "disregard" for abused children. The Australian cardinal has rejected the accusations as "false."

The pope's commissioner for the protection of children, Peter Saunders, said on Australian television that the Vatican finance chief George Pell should be dismissed. Speaking on Channel Nine's "60 Minutes," he accused the Australian cardinal of having failed to take action to protect children from abuse in his home country.

"He has a catalogue of denigrating people, of acting with callousness, coldheartedness, almost sociopathic I would go as far as to say, this lack of care," said Peter Saunders, a British victim of child sexual abuse recently appointed by Pope Francis. He said Pell should be "moved aside" from his Vatican role and sent back to Australia to address a separate Australian abuse inquiry.

Formerly the Archbishop of Sydney and now the Vatican's prefect of the secretariat for the economy, Pell summoned his lawyers on Monday. A statement issued by his office said the allegations were "false and misleading".

Cardinal Pell repeatedly denied claims raised in an Australian abuse inquiry that he helped move priests accused of abuse to another parish or offered one victim inducements to drop a complaint.

"From his earliest actions as an archbishop, Cardinal Pell has taken a strong stand against child sexual abuse and put in place processes to enable complaints to be brought forward and independently investigated," the statement issued by Pell's office said on Monday.

Pell took up his current post in February 2014; Pope Francis put the Australian in charge of the Vatican's finances in a bid to make them more transparent.

das/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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