SYDNEY, Australia – Cardinal George Pell returned Monday in his home Australia where he was charged with sex crimes, while a commission published a new paper from his research on the Catholic Church’s past response to allegations of violence in the country.
Cardinal Pell, 76, one of the highest in the world hierarchy of church people, was organized by the Australian Federal Police at Sydney International Airport, where his Singapore flight landed just before 6 am . The cardinal had won his flights to Rome in his doctors, a spokesman said.
The cardinal, a close adviser to Francis, denied the charges against him, announced last month by police in the Australian state of Victoria. The details of the charges have not been made public, unless they are “historical”, which means that the alleged crimes took place a long time ago and several accusers.
Cardinal Pell was indicted on subpoena, which means that he was informed of the charges and ordered to appear in court, but he was not detained. He must appear before a court in Melbourne on July 26.
“When he was informed of the Victoria police charges, Cardinal Pell said in Rome that he totally rejected the allegations, was completely innocent of the charges and should return to Australia to vigorously defend and clear his name,” the statement said.
During a press conference in Rome last month, Cardinal Pell said he was a victim of “relentless murder.” He said: “The idea of sexual abuse is horrible for me.”
Hours after the arrival of Cardinal Pell on Monday, a commission from Australia published documents of its continuing inquiry into the treatment of Catholic institutions of sexual abuse allegations in Australia in recent decades.
A spokesperson for the panel, the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse in Children, said the timing of the publication was a coincidence.
The release includes many emails and letters regarding specific allegations of abuse, with some identifying details reduced. The Commission has already stated that from 1980 to 2015 more than 4000 Australians have made allegations of sexual abuse of children involving Catholic institutions and 7% of Catholic priests have been accused of sexually abusing children 1950-2010.
The commission defended Cardinal Pell’s treatment of allegations of abuse against the clergy when he headed the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1996 and later in Sydney.
The cardinal was introduced to the committee last year by a video link from Rome; He refused to appear in person on the grounds that the Rome flight posed a health risk.
Andrew Collins, a 48-year-old Australian who said he was abused by the clergy as a child, praised the work of the Committee Monday.
“The survivors called for a royal commission for years, simply because we could not get justice,” said Collins, who said he had been abused by four different men in churches and schools in Ballarat, the birthplace of Cardinal Pell. “The first part of justice is to recognize the past. I believe the royal commission has done this.”
The commission, which commenced its work in 2013, is expected to submit a final report to the Australian Government in December.
Anthony Fisher, the archbishop of Sydney, said the church will not pay for the legal defense of Cardinal Pell, but said it would help “their accommodation and support.”
In 2014, the commission said that Catholic orders in Australia had paid tens of millions of Australian dollars in legal expenses and settlements on behalf of priests accused of sexual abuse.