Australian police said they are investigating child sex abuse complaints against the Vatican’s finance chief George Pell.
It follows explosive allegations against the cardinal aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday, which Pell strongly denied.
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Police in Victoria are conducting the probe into allegations of abuse by Pell in Ballarat, Torquay and Melbourne.
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Press TV reports:
The ABC has obtained eight police statements from complainants, family members and witnesses contributing to the investigation.
The report also includes claims that Pell touched two boys inappropriately in a pool in the late 1970s. The two men, who were in primary school at the time, said Pell abused them when he would frequent Ballarat’s Eureka pool.
The 75-year-old leading Catholic cleric, who was a priest in Ballarat in the 70s, has denounced the claims as “totally untrue,” saying claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong.
“If there was any credibility in any of these claims, they would have been pursued by the royal commission by now,” Pell’s office said in a statement.
In 2013, Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was formed to deal with allegations of serial child sex abuse inside the Catholic Church.
Over the past years, the Roman Catholic Church, with the pope at the helm, has been rocked by numerous cases of child sex abuse at the hands of priests.
The issue of abuses being concealed by the church has made many child rights defenders, including Christians, dissatisfied with the church’s handling of the issue and has put church authorities on the defensive.
In July 2015, an inquiry said that the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church in Australia concealed more than 1,000 cases of child sex abuse over a six-decade period. The church, best known for its door-to-door campaigns and “public witnessing,” has about 68,000 members in Australia.
Victims accuse the Jehovah’s Witnesses authorities of protecting abusive priests by ignoring their complaints.
The UN Committee against Torture confirmed more than two years ago that Vatican officials had not reported abuse charges properly and simply transferred abusive priests instead of punishing them.