Police question Vatican cardinal about Australian sex abuse allegations

Meeting of bishops, The Vatican

Australian police flew to Rome to interview a senior Vatican cardinal about allegations of sexual assault dating back decades.

Cardinal George Pell, the senior financial adviser to Pope Francis and one of his most trusted aides, has long been dogged by allegations he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne and later Sydney.

In recent months, Cardinal Pell has faced accusations of child abuse himself when he was a young priest in the 1970s.

On Wednesday, police in Australia’s Victoria state confirmed that they had interviewed the cardinal over the allegations.

“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.”

The allegations involve two men, now in their 40s, who say Cardinal Pell touched them inappropriately at a swimming pool in the late 1970s.

Separately, a man told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he saw the cardinal exposing himself to three young boys in a surf club changing room in the late 1980s. Cardinal Pell was at the time a senior priest in Melbourne.

Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied the allegations and did so again on Wednesday.

“The Cardinal repeats his previous rejection of all and every allegation of sexual abuse and will continue to co-operate with Victoria police until the investigation is finalised,” his office said.

In August, Pope Francis declined to address the accusations against Cardinal Pell, saying he wanted to wait until the investigation was complete before commenting.

“We must wait for justice and not make judgments ahead of time,” the pope said.

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