Australia’s most senior Catholic Cardinal George Pell says the Catholic Church made “enormous mistakes” in dealing with claims of sexual abuse.
Pell, the Vatican treasurer, was giving evidence from Rome via video link to an Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. The commission is investigating child sex abuse that occurred in the city of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia.
Pell was a priest in Ballarat and lived in a seminary with a notorious paedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, who committed more than 130 offences against young boys while working as a chaplain between the 1960s and the 1980s.
Pell is not accused of sexual abuse and has strenuously denied knowing about Risdale’s actions.
He was yesterday asked whether he knew if paedophiles were active in churches under his watch.
“I’m not here to defend the indefensible,” said Cardinal Pell.
“The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those but the Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down,” he said.
There has been a strong movement for Pell to return to Australia to appear in front of the inquiry, but he was excused because of ill health.
Detractors say if he did know of the abuse it could make his Vatican position untenable.
Pell was asked by journalists as he left the hotel, where he had been appearing by video link, if there was: “Any message to the victims who’ve travelled from Australia to be here to see you?”
“I hope we can help them a bit,” the cardinal replied.