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Pain of survivor victims not forgotten


Acknowledging the High Court’s decision today to acquit Cardinal George Pell of historical child sex abuse charges, Adelaide Archbishop-elect Patrick O’Regan said it was important to remember the “survivor victims, their families and people in the parishes” at this time.

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“Our first thought must also and always be with the people who are affected by all of this. I know this whole case has been affecting people deeply and in many ways,” Bishop O’Regan said in a phone interview on ABC Radio this morning.

Bishop O’Regan said while he was happy that the justice system had been tested and “arrived at this particular decision”, he was always mindful of “the pain that such things also bring up in people’s lives”.

“I’m talking about survivor victims, their families and people in our parishes as well that try to understand that this could even happen in the first place and what it means.

“There is a crisis in trust in our society and we’re part of that, so until that trust can be rebuilt at the deepest level there is no cause for celebration,” he said.

Today’s announcement came after the High Court reviewed all the evidence before the Court of Appeal, and identified “a body of evidence that raised lively doubts as to the commission of the offences” and concluded that there was a significant possibility “that an innocent person has been convicted”.

The decision meant Cardinal Pell, 78, was released from prison after spending 404 days behind bars.

In a statement issued after his acquittal, Cardinal Pell said he had consistently maintained his innocence “while suffering from a serious injustice”.

“I hold no ill will toward my accuser, I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough,” he said.

“However my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church. The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not.

“The only basis for long term healing is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all.

“A special thanks for all the prayers and thousands of letters of support.”

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, said the High Court’s decision would be welcomed by many “including those who have believed in the Cardinal’s innocence throughout this lengthy process”.

“We also recognise that the High Court’s decision will be devastating for others,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“Many have suffered greatly through the process, which has now reached its conclusion.

“The result today does not change the Church’s unwavering commitment to child safety and to a just and compassionate response to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse.

“The safety of children remains supremely important not only for the bishops, but for the entire Catholic community. Any person with allegations of sexual abuse by Church personnel should go to the police.”


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