Catholic Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli asserted pedophile convict Cardinal George Pell is telling the truth about his innocence, and wonders if the sole living victim got the name of his abuser wrong though he says he believes him too.
His statement came the day after Victoria’s Court of Appeal upheld Cardinal’s conviction for the abuse of a 13-year-old choirboy and sexual assault of another at Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.
Archbishop Comensoli said that while he respected the courts, he also believed his friend and will continue to visit him in prison.
“I believe in what he said to me on many occasions — that he’s innocent — I continue to be really quite shocked with all of how things are developed,” he told the media on Thursday.
Furthermore, he went on to say that he also believes that the victim who came forward to the police was molested within the church.
“I genuinely think that I can take on my knowledge of the man in terms of George Pell and accept what he has said to me, I can also take on what I’ve heard of (the victim) and what he said in terms of abuse.”
The fallen Cardinal, who was once welcomed into the Pope’s inner circle of trusted advisors known as the Group of Nine was among the most powerful figures in the Vatican.
He now has 28 days to apply for an appeal to the High Court. This application would have to be granted before it can be heard.
Two judges would consider the application either on written submissions alone, or during a hearing when submissions are limited to 20 minutes for each side.
“He’s an old man, his health’s never been real good for a while,” Archbishop Comensoli said about the 78-year-old convicted pedophile.
“In Christian charity, I will ensure that Cardinal Pell is provided pastoral and spiritual support while he serves the remainder of his sentence, according to the teaching and example of Jesus to visit those in prison,” he further added.
The Archbishop, who has publicly acknowledged the convict as a friend and visited him in jail, added that he is ready to “offer pastoral care and spiritual help” to Pell’s victim as well.
He revealed that neither the victim nor the other victim’s family had been compensated for the abuse.
The Vatican press office released a statement acknowledging the Court of Appeal’s decision and said it would wait until any further appeals are exhausted before taking action.
Press officer Matteo Bruni said, “As the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court.”
Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world), motu proprio promulgated by Pope Francis ad experimentum for three years in May 2019, article 4 clause 2 states, “prejudice, retaliation or discrimination as a consequence of having submitted a report is prohibited.”
Vatican had previously flagged its own internal investigation into the evidence against Pell.
One of Pell’s victims passed away in 2014, while the other gave evidence at his trial.
Pedophile Pell will serve out his prison term after Victoria’s highest court rejected his appeal on Wednesday, in a 2-1 ruling. The cardinal was sentenced to six years in prison in March.
In their 325-page decision, Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and President Chris Maxwell found the man (victim), now in his 30s, truthful. While, Justice Mark Weinberg highlighted inconsistencies in the victim’s evidence in his dissenting judgment.
Pell did not appeal his six-year sentence, so it stands, along with a minimum three years and eight months before he’s eligible for parole.
The earliest Pell can be released is October 2022, at the age of 81.
Catholic Bishops Conference, the representative body for the church’s most senior Australian clerics, backed the court’s ruling.
“The Catholic Bishops of Australia believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today’s judgment accordingly,” their statement read.
“After attending the funeral of my childhood friend, the other choir boy, I felt a responsibility to come forward. I knew that he had been in a dark place, I have been in a dark place. I gave a statement to the police because I was thinking of him and his family. I felt I should say what I saw and what had happened to me,” George Pell’s surviving victim recounted the past.
Reacting to criticism, he said, “Some commentators have suggested that I reported to the police somehow for my own personal gain. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have risked my privacy, my health, my well-being and my family.”
Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic Cardinal George Pell was found guilty in 2018 of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in the 1990s. The abuse took place when Pell was the Archbishop of Melbourne at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne, and was leading the Melbourne Response, a compensation scheme for victims of pedophile priests.