Australian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church George Pell, 74 held up the Bible as he gave evidence to Australia’s Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.
He gave the evidence through a video link in Rome saying, “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 added.
One of the most senior officials within the Vatican hierarchy and the current Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy said, “The instinct was more to protect the institution, the community of the Church, from shame."
The commission had asked Cardinal Pell in detail about his time as a young priest in eastern Australia in the 1970s because some of his fellow priests from that time had since been found guilty of engaging in the pedophilia activity. The cardinal insisted he knew nothing of paedophile priests.
Pell admitted that he himself had given some priests the benefit of the doubt. “I must say, in those days, if a priest denied such activity, I was very strongly inclined to accept the denial," he said.
Cardinal Pell who met with the Holy Father at the Vatican ahead of his second day of testimony to the Australian inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, speaking about the audience he had with the pontiff said, “I have the full backing of the Pope."
The counsel had inquired about Pell’s knowledge of several abuse cases from the 1970s and 1980s, including that of Australia’s worst paedophile priest, 81-year-old Gerald Francis Ridsdale convicted for abusing at least 100 children over 30 years, while working at Ballarat’s St Alipius school. The Cardinal insisted repeatedly that he knew nothing of paedophile priests.
“The way he [Ridsdale] was dealt with was a catastrophe," Cardinal Pell said. “A catastrophe for the victims, and a catastrophe for the Church. If effective action had been taken earlier, an enormous amount of suffering would have been avoided."
The inquiry is scheduled to continue until July. The evidence by video-link was arranged by the royal commission after the 74-year old said he could not travel to Australia because his doctors said he couldn’t fly because of his heart condition.
Over the weekend, the Australian Cardinal visited the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican and showed his solidarity for the Loud Fence movement by survivors of abuse by tying a yellow ribbon on the grotto’s fence, according to Vatican Radio.
“I am aware of the Loud Fence movement and how it has grown rapidly. This is my gesture of support, especially for the people of Ballarat," Cardinal Pell said.