Sydney Archbishop Cleared of All Accusations

After Independent Investigation into Complaint of Sexual Abuse

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SYDNEY, Australia, OCT. 14, 2002 ( Archbishop George Pell of Sydney was cleared of accusations of pedophilia, following an investigation carried out by a retired judge at the request of the Church.

The archbishop, who stood down from his position Aug. 20 pending the outcome of the investigation, has returned to his post. He told a press conference today that he harbors no resentment.

“I am grateful to God that this ordeal is over and that the inquiry has exonerated me of all allegations,” Archbishop Pell, 61, said in a published statement.

“When a person is under extreme pressure, personal values may crumble,” he added. “However, my Catholic convictions sustained me during those dark weeks. I found a great strength in regular prayer and in reflecting on the great Christian teachings about suffering, death and resurrection.”

“In addition,” he said, “I was immensely consoled by the love, support and loyalty of family and friends.”

The archbishop’s accuser, whose identity has not been made public, had claimed that then Father Pell sexually abused him in the early 1960s. The accuser was 11 years old at the time. He said he only recognized Archbishop Pell in 2000, when he saw him on television.

The accuser had a criminal record in Australia, including drug trafficking and tax evasion, for which he was imprisoned in the 1990s.

In a report published today, Alec Southwell, a former judge of Victoria’s Supreme Court who investigated the case, wrote: “In the end, and notwithstanding that impression of the complainant, bearing in mind the forensic difficulties of the defense occasioned by the very long delay, some valid criticism of the complainant’s credibility, the lack of corroborative evidence and the sworn denial of the respondent, I find I am not ‘satisfied that the complaint has been established.'”

Since the accuser failed to denounce Archbishop Pell to the civil authorities, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, co-president of the Church’s National Committee for Professional Standards, set up an independent investigation entrusted to Judge Southwell.

The National Committee for Professional Standards is a body established by the Catholic bishops’ conference, to receive, among other things, complaints of sexual abuse by priests.

Archbishop Pell’s first public engagement on returning to the leadership of the archdiocese was to celebrate a Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral for the victims of the Bali attack in Indonesia, in which dozens of Australian tourists were killed or wounded.

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