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Tuesday 25 October 2016

Cardinal accused of ignoring child sex abuse

Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney

Published 21/05/2015 | 02:30

Cardinal Pell, head of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy. Photo: Getty Images
Cardinal Pell, head of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy. Photo: Getty Images

George Pell, an Australian Cardinal who is one of the most senior figures in the Vatican, has been accused of ignoring and covering up child sex abuse claims during his service in Australia, including allegedly trying to bribe a victim of a paedophile priest to remain silent.

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In dramatic testimony at Australia's royal commission into child sex abuse, David Ridsdale said he was abused by his uncle, Gerard Ridsdale - a notorious paedophile and defrocked priest - and phoned Cardinal Pell, who tried to silence him.

Mr Ridsdale said he spoke to Cardinal Pell in 1993 but the priest did not appear shocked and instead attempted to bribe him. Cardinal Pell has previously denied the claim.

"George then began to talk about my growing family and my need to take care of their needs. He mentioned how I would soon have to buy a car or house for my family," Mr Ridsdale said.

Mr Ridsdale said he recalled "with clarity" the last three lines of the conversation:

"Me: 'Excuse me, George, what the **** are you talking about?'

"George: 'I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet.'

"Me: '**** you, George, and everything you stand for.'"

Cardinal Pell is now based at the Vatican as prefect of the secretariat for the economy and has been given the task by Pope Francis of overseeing and reforming the city state's economy.

A former Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne, he has long been dogged by criticisms of his handling of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia.

Lawyers for the Catholic Church's witnesses at the commission said Cardinal Pell would provide a statement if asked but it was unlikely to differ from his previous response.

In a statutory declaration in 2002, Cardinal Pell said of Mr Ridsdale's claim: "It was alleged that I said to David words to the effect 'What will it take to keep you quiet?'

"I emphatically deny having said these words or any words to that effect. I emphatically and totally deny the allegation that I made any attempt to buy David's silence."

Irish Independent

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