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Pope visits Egypt next week to strengthen beset Christian minorities

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ April 28-29 visit to Egypt, a land increasingly marked by terrorist-led bloodshed, stands as part of his mission to inspire and encourage today’s actors in theaters of violence to change the script and set a new stage. Read more »

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Cardinal calls alleged Vatican resistance to child protection a ‘cliché’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s doctrinal chief dismissed accusations that some Vatican officials are resisting recommendations on best practices for protecting children and vulnerable adults from clergy sex abuse.

Marie Collins of Ireland, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, is pictured in a 2014 photo. Collins was one of the founding members and the last remaining abuse survivor on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. She left her position over what she described as resistance in Vatican offices against implementing recommendations for protecting people from abuse. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz) See VATICAN-ABUSE-RESIGNATION-COLLINS March 1, 2017..

Marie Collins of Ireland, above, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse,resigned her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minor March 1, citing what she called resistance from Vatican offices. Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has dismissed the accusation as a cliché.(CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

“I think this cliché must be put to an end: the idea that the pope, who wants the reform, is on one side and, on the other, a group of resisters who want to block it,” said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The congregation is charged with carrying out canonical trials and seeking justice for victims of clerical abuse, while local bishops and heads of religious orders must care for their pastoral needs, he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, published March 5.

Cardinal Muller responded to complaints made by Marie Collins, who resigned her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors March 1, citing what she described as resistance coming from Vatican offices against implementing recommendations.

In an editorial published online March 1 by National Catholic Reporter, Collins said an unnamed dicastery not only refused to cooperate on the commission’s safeguarding guidelines, but also refused to respond to letters from victims.

Collins said the refusal “to implement one of the simplest recommendations the commission has put forward to date” was the last straw that led to her resignation.

While acknowledging that personal care of victims is important, Cardinal Muller said Collins’ accusations “are based on a misunderstanding” and that bishops and religious superiors “who are closer” to victims of clergy sex abuse are charged with their pastoral care.

“When a letter arrives, we always ask the bishop that he take pastoral care of the victim, clarifying that the congregation will do everything possible to do justice. It is a misunderstanding that this dicastery, in Rome,” can be aware of everything happening in all the dioceses and religious orders in the world, the cardinal said.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he added, “acts as the supreme apostolic tribunal” on matters dealing with clerical abuse.

“All our collaborators humanly suffer with the victims of abuse. Our task is to do everything possible to do justice and avoid further crimes,” he said.

Through the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the cardinal said, Pope Francis “wished to offer an exemplary service” as a help for the church and the world in dealing with the scourge of child sex abuse.

“Pedophilia is monstrous crime as well as a grave sin. We must remember Jesus’ words to the children and his condemnation against those who harm them,” Cardinal Muller said.

 

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Pope’s marriage document not up for personal interpretation, cardinal says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s doctrinal chief said some bishops are interpreting Pope Francis’ document on marriage and family in a way that is not in accordance with Catholic doctrine. Read more »

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Doctrinal chief dismisses idea of a ‘fraternal correction’ of pope

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church is “very far” from a situation in which the pope is in need of “fraternal correction” because he has not put the faith and church teaching in danger, said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Interviewed Jan. 9 on the Italian all-news channel, TGCom24, Cardinal Muller said Pope Francis’ document on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” was “very clear” in its teaching.

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, arrives for a news conference at the Vatican in this June 14, 2016, file photo. Cardinal Muller said the Catholic Church is "very far" from a situation in which Pope Francis is in need of "fraternal correction." He made his comment in an interview about the pope's apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia," with Italian news channel TGCom24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, arrives for a news conference at the Vatican in this June 14, 2016, file photo. Cardinal Muller said the Catholic Church is “very far” from a situation in which Pope Francis is in need of “fraternal correction.” He made his comment in an interview about the pope’s apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” with Italian news channel TGCom24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In the document, the cardinal said, Pope Francis asks priests “to discern the situation of these persons living in an irregular union — that is, not in accordance with the doctrine of the church on marriage — and asks for help for these people to find a path for a new integration into the church according to the condition of the sacraments (and) the Christian message on matrimony.”

In the papal document, he said, “I do not see any opposition: On one side we have the clear doctrine on matrimony, and on the other the obligation of the church to care for these people in difficulty.”

The cardinal was interviewed about a formal request to Pope Francis for clarification about “Amoris Laetitia” and particularly its call for the pastoral accompaniment of people who are divorced and civilly remarried or who are living together without marriage.

The request, called a “dubia,” was written in September by U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the Knights of Malta, and three other cardinals. They published the letter in November after Pope Francis did not respond.

In an interview later, Cardinal Burke said the pope must respond to the “dubia” because they directly impact the faith and the teaching of the church. If there is no response, he said, a formal “correction of the pope” would be in order.

Cardinal Muller told the Italian television that “a possible fraternal correction of the pope seems very remote at this time because it does not concern a danger for the faith,” which is the situation St. Thomas Aquinas described for fraternal correction. “It harms the church” for cardinals to so publicly challenge the pope, he said.

In his letter on the family, Pope Francis affirmed church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, but he also urged pastors to provide spiritual guidance and assistance with discernment to Catholics who have married civilly without an annulment of their church marriage. A process of discernment, he has said, might eventually lead to a determination that access to the sacraments is possible.

The possibility reflects a change in church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the sinfulness of sexual relations outside a valid marriage, in the view of the document written by Cardinals Burke; Walter Brandmuller, a German and former president of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences; Carlo Caffarra, retired archbishop of Bologna, Italy; and Joachim Meisner, retired archbishop of Cologne, Germany.

In the TGCom24 interview, Cardinal Muller said, “everyone, especially cardinals of the Roman church, have the right to write a letter to the pope. However, I was astonished that this became public, almost forcing the pope to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’” to the cardinals’ questions about what exactly the pope meant in “Amoris Laetitia.”

“This, I don’t like,” Cardinal Muller said.

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Australian police question a cardinal in Rome

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Australian police questioned Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, in Rome regarding accusations of alleged sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pell, who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, was “voluntarily interviewed” by Victoria police in late October, said a statement Oct. 26 from the cardinal’s office.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. Australian police questioned Cardinal Pell in Rome regarding accusations of alleged sexual abuse. (CNS photo/Jane Dempster, EPA)

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. Australian police questioned Cardinal Pell in Rome regarding accusations of alleged sexual abuse. (CNS photo/Jane Dempster, EPA)

“The cardinal repeats his previous rejection of all and every allegation of sexual abuse and will continue to cooperate with Victoria police until the investigation is finalized,” the statement said.

Allegations surfaced in July in a report by Australia’s ABC featuring several people who accused Cardinal Pell of sexual assault; at least one of the accusations had been found to be unsubstantiated by an Australian court in 2002.

At the time, Cardinal Pell dismissed the accusations as “nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign” and a statement issued by his office said that “claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong.”

Pope Francis weighed in on the controversial allegations one week after the report aired, saying they were unclear and in “the hands of investigators.”

Speaking to journalists aboard his return flight from Krakow, Poland, July 31, the pope warned against deeming alleged accusations true or false before they are investigated thoroughly.

“If I would give a verdict for or against Cardinal Pell, it would not be good because I would judge prematurely,” he said. “We should wait for justice and not judge beforehand (or) a verdict by the press, a verdict based on gossip.”

Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Oct. 26 that he believed Pope Francis knew about the Victoria police questioning the cardinal. The spokesman also referred reporters to the pope’s comments in July and to the strong statements of denial issued by Cardinal Pell’s office.

 

 

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Cardinal calls Christians to be like St. Mary Madalene on her feast day

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to be like St. Mary Magdalene, who adored Christ upon finding him, an action that has somewhat lost its meaning in the church, said Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

St. Mary Magdalene is depicted in a stained glass window in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Pope Francis has raised the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast that is celebrated July 22 on the church's liturgical calendar. (CNS photo/ Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

St. Mary Magdalene is depicted in a stained glass window in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Pope Francis has raised the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast that is celebrated July 22 on the church’s liturgical calendar. (CNS photo/ Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

He said the July 22 feast of St. Mary Magdalene also serves as a reminder of the need to recuperate “the primacy of God and the primacy of adoration in the life of the church and in liturgical celebrations.”

“I believe, and I say so humbly, that we Christians perhaps have lost a bit the meaning of adoration. And we think: We go to church, we gather together like brothers, and it is good and beautiful. But the center is there where God is. And we adore God,” he wrote in an article published July 21 in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis raised the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast on the church’s liturgical calendar June 10 in a decree, “Apostolorum Apostola” (“Apostle of the Apostles”) which formalized the decision and was published by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

While most liturgical celebrations of individual saints during the year are known formally as memorials, those classified as feasts are reserved for important events in Christian history and for saints of particular significance, such as the Twelve Apostles.

As the first to announce Jesus’ resurrection to the apostles, Cardinal Sarah wrote, St. Mary Magdalene was “a witness of divine mercy,” and her feast day can help men and women deepen their roles as followers of Christ through adoration and mission.

Adoration, he continued, is what is most important and “not the songs or rites, as beautiful as they are.”

“What does it mean to adore God then? It means to learn to be with him, to stop in order to speak with him, to feel that his presence is the most true, the most good and the most important of all,” he wrote.

Citing St. John Paul II’s writings on the 25th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” Cardinal Sarah highlighted the need “to give God the first place” in order to encounter Christ, his mercy and his love.

“Mary Magdalene is the first witness of this dual behavior: to adore Christ and to make him known,” he wrote. By centering “our lives on Christ and on his Gospel,” Cardinal Sarah said Christians can model themselves after the “apostle of the apostles” who “comes out of herself to go toward Christ through adoration and mission.”

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American and Spanish journalists to lead Vatican press office

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis named two experienced journalists, including its first female vice director, to lead the Vatican press office.

Greg Burke, a native of St. Louis, succeeds Italian Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who retires after 10 years as head of the Vatican press office, the Vatican announced July 11. Spanish journalist Paloma Garcia Ovejero fills in Burke’s spot as vice director, making her the first female to hold that position.

Greg Burke, the new director of the Vatican press office and Vatican spokesman, and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the new vice director, are pictured with Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the outgoing Vatican spokesman, during an announcement of their appointments at an informal meeting with journalists at the Vatican press office July 11. Burke, a native of St. Louis, has worked for the Vatican since 2012 and prior to that was a television correspondent for Fox News. Garcia Ovejero is a Spanish journalist who worked for the radio station of the Spanish Bishops' Conference. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Greg Burke, the new director of the Vatican press office and Vatican spokesman, and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the new vice director, are pictured with Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the outgoing Vatican spokesman, during an announcement of their appointments at an informal meeting with journalists at the Vatican press office July 11. Burke, a native of St. Louis, has worked for the Vatican since 2012 and prior to that was a television correspondent for Fox News. Garcia Ovejero is a Spanish journalist who worked for the radio station of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Burke served as special communications adviser in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State starting in 2012 before he was named by Pope Francis as the vice director of the press office last December.

A graduate of Columbia University’s school of journalism, Burke spent 24 of his past 28 years based in Rome as a journalist with the National Catholic Register, Time magazine and the Fox News network.

The middle child of six, Burke grew up in St. Louis Hills and went to Jesuit-run St. Louis University High School. He is a numerary member of Opus Dei. (Numeraries are lay members of the organization who embrace celibacy.)

Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat of Communications, paid tribute to Father Lombardi’s 10 years of service at the press office.

Speaking to journalists July 11, Msgr. Vigano praised Father Lombardi’s professional work and his “ecclesial vision” of the church.

Born in northern Italy near Turin in 1942, Father Lombardi was named program director of Vatican Radio in 1990 and general director of the Vatican television center, CTV, in 2001.

During the reorganization of Vatican offices under Pope Benedict XVI, Father Lombardi was appointed general director of the radio in 2005 and head of the Vatican press office in 2006, while continuing to lead CTV. Before his retirement in 2013, Pope Benedict named Msgr. Vigano the new director of CTV.

Father Lombardi retired as head of Vatican Radio in February this year when the Secretariat for Communications took over the general administration of the radio.

Garcia Ovejero, who studied journalism in Spain and earned a masters degree in management strategies and communications at New York University, worked as the Italy and Vatican correspondent for Spanish radio broadcaster Cadena COPE.

“For me it’s an honor, it’s a service and it’s another way of serving the church. But it is the same church and, in some way, the same type of work: to proclaim the Good News and to transmit faithfully and with dignity the pope’s message,” Garcia Ovejero told Catholic News Service.

The Spanish journalist downplayed her role as the first female vice director of the press office, saying that the first women who served the church “were the ones who found the empty tomb and proclaimed the Resurrection to the apostles.”

“I am in no way the first woman. The first woman above all in the church, in the Vatican and in the press office is the Virgin Mary,” she said.

Garcia Ovejero said she hoped her role will be to serve and fulfill “the will of God, the will of the pope and, in every possible way, the will of the journalists.”

The Vatican announced that Garcia Ovejero, a native of Madrid, and Burke will begin their respective roles Aug. 1.

In Washington, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, congratulated all three and thanked Father Lombardi for helping to “spread the Gospel throughout the world across two pontificates.”

“I was especially grateful to have learned not only from his media expertise but also his deep love for the church during the six days we spent together as Pope Francis visited the United States,” the archbishop said.

He said Burke was “long known to us in the United States as a devoted man of the church and an unparalleled communicator.”

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Vatican’s “serene dialogue” with U.S. women religious continues, cardinal says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — More than a year after the conclusion of the Vatican’s apostolic visitation of U.S. communities of women religious, the Vatican began asking more than a dozen orders to send their superiors to Rome to discuss concerns that surfaced.

Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, says there remain about 15 religious orders we need to speak with about a few points." (CNS file/Paul Haring)

Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, says there remain about 15 religious orders we need to speak with about a few points.” (CNS file/Paul Haring)

“We did a very positive report at the conclusion of the visitation,” a report that looked at the life of women’s congregations in the United States as a whole and was released in December 2014, said Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

But “there remained about 15, more or less, that we needed to speak with about a few points,” the cardinal told Catholic News Service June 14. The cardinal had attended a news conference about a new document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith looking at the relationship between the hierarchy and communities or movements that arise from “charismatic gifts.”

“When you are speaking of religious orders, secular institutes and the order of virgins, all of this is part of the charismatic side of the church,” he said. More than 2,000 orders and institutes are recognized by the Vatican as “paths of a special encounter with God,” the cardinal said, but it is the responsibility of bishops and the church’s hierarchy to support and guide them.

When he announced the conclusion of the visitation, Cardinal Braz de Aviz had told the press that “individual reports will be sent to those institutes which hosted an onsite visitation and to those institutes whose individual reports indicated areas of concern. because there are some of those, too.”

Speaking to CNS June 14, the cardinal said, “I don’t know if the Sisters of Loretto are still in the phase of the review of the visitation that the Holy See conducted, but I believe so.”

In early June, the Global Sisters Report said that Sister Pearl McGivney, president of the Sisters of Loretto, had been asked to come to Rome to discuss alleged “ambiguity” in the order’s adherence to church teaching and its way of living religious life.

The cardinal told CNS that his office’s questions were not a judgment and, because the actual site visits took place between 2009 and 2012, “we do not know yet if they are still of concern or not because many years have passed.”

“We are in dialogue” with the congregations, he said. “And it is going very well. We already have spoken with six or seven. It is going very well. It is a serene dialogue, a dialogue to see where and how we can help.”

We are calling some to Rome in order to better understand, the cardinal said. “With some there is no longer anything that needs to be done because they already have completed a whole process” of adjusting issues that were of concern to the Vatican. In those cases, he said, “we embrace and get back to work.”

A statement posted June 9 on the Sisters of Loretto’s website said Cardinal Braz de Aviz asked Sister McGivney to “come to Rome to discuss some areas of concern which surfaced during the apostolic visitation process.”

“The Loretto community engaged wholeheartedly in the apostolic visitation process and, through it, affirmed our Loretto charism and our lives together,” the statement said.

“Four sisters from other congregations visited us at our motherhouse. They interviewed 90 sisters as well as co-members, students, teachers in our schools and other colleagues. The visitors seemed warm and genuinely interested in our lives. They did not inquire about these ‘areas of concern’ with our elected leadership during this visitation, and we had no expectation that six years later we would find ourselves being asked to come to Rome to address any outstanding issues.”

Still, the statement said, “we are confident that our dialogue with the Vatican will be fruitful.”

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Australian cardinal promises abuse survivors to support healing, protection

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Australian Cardinal George Pell promised to work with a group of abuse survivors to help prevent suicide among victims and support healing and protection programs.

“One suicide is too many. And there have been many such tragic suicides. I commit myself to working with the group to try to stop this so that suicide is not seen as an option for those who are suffering,” he said March 3 after meeting in Rome with a group of survivors from his hometown of Ballarat.

Australian Cardinal George Pell reads a statement to media in front of the Hotel Quirinale in Rome March 3. Cardinal Pell met Australian survivors of clerical sexual abuse who were at the hotel during his testimony via video link to Australia's Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Australian Cardinal George Pell reads a statement to media in front of the Hotel Quirinale in Rome March 3. Cardinal Pell met Australian survivors of clerical sexual abuse who were at the hotel during his testimony via video link to Australia’s Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The closed-door meeting came after the survivors watched the cardinal give evidence over four days to Australia’s Royal Commission about what he knew about the actions of child abusers among clergy and about bishops reassigning them to other parishes during his tenure in Australia. A number of survivors and supporters had come to Rome thanks to a crowd-funding campaign in order to witness in person the cardinal’s testimony, which was delivered over a live video link-up with the commission in Australia.

The cardinal, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, had admitted during the hearings that church leadership “has made enormous mistakes” in confronting suspected and known abuse against minors. Hundreds of child abuse claims or complaints have been made against clergy in the Archdiocese of Melbourne and the Diocese of Ballarat, the cardinal’s hometown and the diocese for which he was ordained in 1966.

“It would be marvelous if our city had become well-known as an effective center and the example of practical help for all those wounded by the scourge of sexual abuse,” he read from his written statement while standing outside the Hotel Quirinale, where the meeting and his previous testimony took place.

He said that during his meeting with survivors, he heard “their stories and of their sufferings. It was hard; an honest and occasionally emotional meeting.”

He said he was “committed to working with these people from Ballarat and surrounding areas” and was willing “to help make Ballarat a model and a better place of healing, for healing, and for peace.”

He promised to continue to help the group work with church agencies in Rome and at the Vatican, especially the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. He helped arrange for some of the victims to meet with the commission earlier that same day.

He also said he supported plans to look into the possibility of creating “a research center to enhance healing and to improve protection.”

Earlier, the cardinal had said he was hoping to facilitate a possible meeting between Pope Francis and the survivors, who were set to fly back to Australia March 4.

After the meeting with Cardinal Pell, one survivor from Ballarat, Phil Nagle, told the Catholic Herald that they “talked about the future not the past. … I think he gets it.”

Nagle said they discussed the importance of counseling and care for survivors and how the church “from (Cardinal) George’s level down” would help with that.

David Ridsdale, whose uncle, a former priest, abused him and others, told reporters March 2 that people should “never underestimate broken people.” Gerald Ridsdale, who is now in prison, had lived in the same house with the cardinal for a few years in the 1970s.

With their presence in Rome and long years of advocacy work, “I hope we’ve shown everyone that when you face the truth with dignity you really can achieve so much,” David Ridsdale said.

“I think what we’ve been through over the years, all of us, to have pulled together, to pull this off, is a testament: don’t ever underestimate broken people,” he said.

When people notice someone who seems to be in need or hurting, “stop the judging. Pick them up like we picked each other up because that is how humanity is going to go forward. Not this hiding, not this power struggle, not this power imbalance,” he said.

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Cardinal Pell: Bishop committed ‘gross deception’ about Australian pedophile

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SYDNEY — When former Bishop Ronald Mulkearns of Ballarat moved a pedophile priest from parish to parish in the early 1970s without divulging the underlying reasons for the moves, the appointments implied the bishop had confidence in the priest, Cardinal George Pell told Australia’s Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Cardinal Pell, then a priest, was a diocesan consultor and, as such, was among a group that approved priests’ assignments. Cardinal Pell told the Royal Commission that, as a consultor, he never received information that would indicate that Father Gerald Ridsdale had committed a string of serious offenses.

Gail Furness, left, stands in front of a screen displaying Australian Cardinal George Pell as he testifies via video link from a hotel in Rome to Australia's Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney Feb. 29. (CNS photo/Jeremy Piper-Oculi, handout, Reuters)

Gail Furness, left, stands in front of a screen displaying Australian Cardinal George Pell as he testifies via video link from a hotel in Rome to Australia’s Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney Feb. 29. (CNS photo/Jeremy Piper-Oculi, handout, Reuters)

Ridsdale has since been laicized. Since 1994, he has been in prison and has been convicted of crimes against 54 children, as young as 4, during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

For the second day, Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, testified via video link from the Hotel Quirinale in Rome because his heart condition prevented him from making the flight back to Sydney for the hearing. The March 1 hearing began at 10 p.m. Feb. 29 in Rome and lasted about four hours.

Gail Furness, senior counsel assisting the commission, and Justice Peter McClellan, commission chair, challenged Cardinal Pell on his knowledge of offenses committed by Ridsdale in the 1970s.

When he was asked whether he had been deceived and lied to by Bishop Mulkearns and others who knew about Ridsdale’s crimes, Cardinal Pell said this was unfortunately correct and was a “gross deception.”

He surmised Bishop Mulkearns could have wanted to protect consultors from culpability and avoid being challenged by them, calling the bishop’s behavior “extraordinary and reprehensible” and saying he could not name another bishop whose actions were so grave and inexplicable. He confirmed several times that pedophilia was never discussed during consultors’ meetings, pointing out that this was consistent with the unanimous evidence of other consultors who had already appeared before the commission.

Citing a 1994 newspaper report that quoted a police detective as saying Ridsdale’s crimes were “pretty common knowledge” in Inglewood’s Catholic congregation in 1976, Furness asked Cardinal Pell if he knew whether it was common knowledge at the time.

“I couldn’t say that I ever knew that everyone knew,” Cardinal Pell responded. “I didn’t know … whether it was common knowledge or whether it wasn’t. It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me.” He went on to say that the suffering was real and he very much regretted it.

When inquiring about when the cardinal served as a consultor, questions focused on three particular meetings of the college.

The first occurred in 1977 when Ridsdale was appointed as parish priest of Edenhope, the second in 1979 when he was approved to undertake further studies, and the third in 1982 when he was sent to work at the Catholic Enquiry Centre, a national evangelization body established to take calls from those seeking information about the Catholic faith. In the 1982 meeting, the minutes state that the bishop advised it had become “necessary” for Ridsdale to be moved.

Accusations began to fly in the final hour of the hearing, with Furness suggesting numerous times that it was implausible that Bishop Mulkearns or the two other consultors who knew of Ridsdale’s offending did not tell the remaining consultors at the 1982 meeting the reason for Ridsdale’s move.

Cardinal Pell rejected each assertion, saying that while he did not have a clear recollection of the meeting, he would have remembered if something such as pedophilia was mentioned because it was clearly wrong and would have been a reason to have the priest removed.

About an hour after the hearing concluded, Anthony Foster, the father of two victims, met briefly with Cardinal Pell as he prepared to leave the hotel.

Speaking to media outside the hotel, Foster said that Cardinal Pell held his hand for the entirety of their conversation. The cardinal had previously offered to meet personally with any of those who had traveled to Rome who wanted to meet with him.

Foster told media that he expressed to the cardinal that the only reason he would meet with him would be to discuss improving the Melbourne Response, which provides compensation and counseling to victims of child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. He said Cardinal Pell responded that it could be discussed.

The Melbourne Response was established in 1996 by Cardinal Pell within the first three months of his appointment as archbishop of Melbourne. While some elements of the plan have been criticized, it was regarded as the first redress scheme for survivors of clerical sexual abuse of its kind in Australia.

Cardinal Pell was expected to testify for two more nights.

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