The Courier-Mail

Pell receives inquiry ‘invite’ Angry cardinal seeks legal advice over claims

- SHANNON DEERY

CARDINAL George Pell will be asked to appear at the sex abuse royal commission later this year.

Pressure has been building on the commission to formally request the Cardinal’s appearance at the second stage of the Ballarat hearings.

Because he lives at the Vatican, as an adviser to Pope Francis, he cannot be summonsed. But in a statement yesterday the commission said it had formally asked Cardinal Pell to appear. He has stated his willingnes­s to co-operate with the commission on several occasions.

It comes after Cardinal Pell sought legal advice over what he has called false and misleading claims about his handling of child abuse cases within the Catholic Church.

The Vatican finance chief yesterday summoned his lawyers after Peter Saunders, one of the Pope’s commission­ers for the protection of children, accused him of being “almost sociopathi­c” and said his position was untenable.

In response, Cardinal Pell came out swinging.

“The false and misleading claims made against His Emi- nence are outrageous. The Cardinal is left no alternativ­e but to consult with his legal advisers,” said a statement issued on his behalf.

“Cardinal Pell has never met Mr Saunders, who seems to have formed his strong opinions without ever having spoken to His Eminence.

“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.”

Meanwhile, child protection advocate Hetty Johnston echoed calls by Mr Saunders for the Cardinal to return to Australia to give evidence before the sex abuse commission.

“The Vatican can’t be seen to be hiding him, or providing him some sort of safe port. That will undo everything they are trying to do in terms of being transparen­t around the sexual assault of children,” Ms Johnston said.

Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied claims that he tried, decades ago, to bribe an abuse victim to keep quiet and has rejected suggestion­s he was dismissive of victims and dealt with them heartlessl­y.

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