Australia

Cardinal Pell admits he did not act on abuse claim

Australian Cardinal George Pell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cardinal Pell is being questioned by an Australian Royal Commission over what he knew about sex abuse by priests in Ballarat

Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell has admitted he did not act after a boy told him about a paedophile priest.

The cardinal told an Australian Royal Commission into child abuse that a student at St Patrick's College in Ballarat said Brother Edward Dowlan was "misbehaving with boys" in 1974.

He said it was "casually mentioned" and the boy did not ask him to act.

Dowlan, who has since changed his name to Ted Bales, was jailed last year for abusing boys in the 1970s and '80s.

The many sins of 'disturbed' priest Peter Searson

Cardinal Pell is giving evidence from Rome to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

He was excused from flying back to Australia due to a heart condition.

A group of abuse survivors and supporters have flown to Rome to face Australia's most senior Catholic as he testifies.

'Disastrous coincidence'

Peter Blenkiron was abused by Brother Dowlan and spoke shortly after the cardinal admitted he "should have done more" about the paedophile priest.

"That's me in 1973 six months before I went to St Patrick's," Mr Blenkiron said, pointing to a photograph on his T-shirt.

"If action would've been taken that little boy wouldn't have gone through what he went thought."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Catholic abuse victim Peter Blenkiron wearing a T-shirt showing him at the age he was abused

Pell said it was a "disastrous coincidence" that five paedophiles came to be at the same school and parish in Ballarat in the 1970s.

His words struck a nerve with abuse survivor Stephen Wood, who has previously said he was bashed and molested starting from age 11.

"Coincidence my foot, it was clearly systemic," he said.

Cardinal Pell also denied claims that he tried to bribe the nephew of notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.

David Ridsdale, who was abused by his uncle, has alleged that the cardinal offered him a bribe to "keep quiet".

The inquiry heard David Ridsdale did not initially want to get the police involved because his grandmother would find out about his uncle's actions.

'Good chance' of meeting Pope

On the eve of Cardinal Pell's final day of testimony, David Ridsale said he was hopeful the group's request to meet with the Pope would be approved.

"Most likely we will meet with Cardinal Pell and we have a good chance of a Papal meeting on Friday," he said.

"We want an understanding and an acknowledgment this is a global systemic problem."

Survivors told reporters that Cardinal Pell's office had removed some of the conditions he had set for holding the meetings.

Cardinal Pell released a statement on Wednesday where he offered to meet victims in small groups, without lawyers or media present.

He also said he would be "happy to assist with requests to meet Pope Francis", but warned he had to "rely on the officials responsible for considering these requests".


Cardinal Pell and the Royal Commission

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A protester holds a placard outside the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney
  • The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse was set up in 2012, largely in response to allegations surrounding the Catholic Church
  • Cardinal Pell has testified twice already
  • Questioning during his latest appearance from Rome has focused on what he knew about the activities of paedophile priests in Ballarat and Melbourne, particularly Gerald Ridsdale and Peter Searson
  • Cardinal Pell has repeatedly asserted that he does not bear responsibility for the failure to act against Ridsdale, Searson and others
  • He was appointed inaugural prefect of Holy See finances in the wake of scandals at the Vatican Bank
  • Previously he held the positions of Archbishop of Sydney and before that Archbishop of Melbourne

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