28 Jul 2016

Cardinal Pell faces abuse allegations - report

10:49 am on 28 July 2016

Victoria police are reportedly investigating multiple child abuse allegations against Australia's most senior Catholic priest, Cardinal George Pell.

Cardinal George Pell at the Quirinale hotel in Rome in March.

Cardinal George Pell in Rome, in March. Photo: AFP

A special taskforce has been investigating a number of complaints from across the state for more than a year.

The ABC said they included allegations Cardinal Pell molested children at a swimming pool in the late 1970s. It said the case had been referred to the public prosecutor for advice.

The broadcaster said it had obtained eight police statements from complainants, witnesses and family members who were helping with the investigation.

Cardinal Pell, now stationed in Rome, has vehemently denied the allegations and accused the ABC of mounting a smear campaign against him.

In a statement he said that "claims that he sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life, are totally untrue and completely wrong".

Cardinal Pell became archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, and archbishop of Sydney in 2001, before taking the Vatican role in 2014.

The current Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, released a statement saying he had known Cardinal Pell for more than 55 years, and the allegations did not reflect the man he knows or the behaviour which he has observed over the years he has known him.

A separate Royal Commission is expected soon to make findings on the Church's response to allegations of child abuse by clergy, including the cardinal's role in that response.