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Report: Key pope aide probed for child abuse

Darko Janjevic (AFP, dpa)
July 27, 2016

Australian police are investigating Vatican finance chief George Pell over sexual abuse allegations, according to the Australian national broadcaster ABC. The cardinal denied the claims as "totally untrue."

Symbolbild - Leere Kinderschaukel
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Burgi

Complaints against Pell go back to late 1970s, when he served as a priest in his home town of Ballarat, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported on Wednesday.

Two men told the company that Pell molested them in a Ballarat swimming pool when they were children. Another person alleged that he had seen Pell exposing himself to young boys in a beach changing room in the 1980s.

ABC claims it had obtained eight police statements from the alleged victims, witnesses and family members. Police and prosecutors have yet to decide whether the documents warrant formal charges against the 75-year old cardinal, according to the reporters.

'Smear campaign'

Victoria police declined to comment, according to the AFP news agency.

At the same time, Pell accused ABC of running a "scandalous smear campaign" against him.

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

Pell already faced allegations of pedophilia in 2002, but was later cleared of any wrongdoing. He also came under fire earlier this year, when the authorities probed numerous child abuse cases in Australia.

Head of global finance

The cardinal was ordained in Rome in 1966 and returned to Australia five years later, gradually rising through the ranks to become Australia's top Catholic cleric. He was personally picked by Pope Francis in 2014 to take charge of the Church's finances, in a bid to reform them and make them more transparent.

Pell is currently serving as the head of the Secretariat of the Economy, making him Vatican's de-facto economy minister.

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