“The news of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on historical child sexual abuse charges has shocked many across Australia and around the world, including the Catholic Bishops of Australia”. That is the beginning of the press release by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of Australian bishops, about the conviction of Cardinal Pell issued by the Court in December and made known today. Msgr. Coleridge got the news on his way back from Rome, where he took part in the meeting of all Presidents of Bishops Conferences in the world last week, together with Pope Francis, exactly about protection of minors in the Church. The press release says: “The Bishops agree that everyone should be equal under the law, and we respect the Australian legal system. The same legal system that delivered the verdict will consider the appeal that the Cardinal’s legal team has lodged”. Cardinal Pell is actually continuing to declare his innocence, and his lawyer wants to appeal. “Our hope, at all times, is that through this process, justice will be served”, says Msgr. Coleridge. “In the meantime, we pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones, and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable”.
Cardinal Pell was convicted in Australia for sexual abuse of minors. He had been accused of abusing two little boys of the choir in the sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral in the nineties, when he was archbishop in Melbourne. Aged seventy-seven, he was found guilty last December, but the Court banned media from publishing the result of the verdict until today. However, the news had become known, but there was no official confirmation. He is risking up to 50 years in prison. In the meantime, Australian media are spreading the news according to which Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge is also under investigation, for how he treated a woman producing information about child abuse in his diocese, over ten years ago. The complaint against Coleridge is about his 2006 meeting with a woman from Canberra, giving him information about child sexual abuse in his archdiocese of Canberra & Goulburn, at the time. According to the woman, the prelate called her “a gossip”, acting in an aggressive way against her. Coleridge firmly rejected those accusations.