Australian police have confirmed that officers from Victoria flew to Rome last week to question Cardinal George Pell about sexual assault allegations.
Cardinal Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial adviser, was archbishop of Melbourne at a time when abuse against children took place in some parishes. In recent months he has faced allegations of child abuse committed by him as a young priest; allegations he strongly denies.
Police Chief Commissioner of the state of Victoria, Graham Ashton, confirmed in June that the task force was investigating multiple allegations against the Cardinal and, if necessary, detectives would fly to Rome to interview Pell, although "it had not been put as necessary to me at this point in time".
Yesterday (25 October) Associated Press reported that Victoria’s state police had confirmed interviewing Pell as part of their ongoing investigations. "Three members of Victoria police travelled to Rome last week where Cardinal George Pell voluntarily participated in an interview regarding allegations of sexual assault", police spokeswoman Amara Bostock said. "As a result of the interview, further investigations are continuing. We are not prepared to comment further at this time."
A statement from Pell’s office said: "The Cardinal repeats his previous rejection of all and every allegation of sexual abuse and will continue to cooperate with Victoria Police until the investigation is finalised".
The Cardinal gave evidence for a third time to Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in March via video link from Rome. He later published a vigorous defence of his reputation after an investigative TV programme in Australia claimed that detectives were investigating historical sex abuse allegations levelled directly at him.
The Pope, who has been a vocal critic of clergy abuse against children and who, in June issued a new Church law that any bishop failing to act over abuse can be removed from office, told reporters aboard the papal plane back from World Youth Day in Poland: “We must wait for the justice system and not make a premature judgment, [or] a judgment in the media, because this does not help.”