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Australian Cardinal George Pell knew of child abuse, report says

Australian Cardinal George Pell speaks to members of news media at the Vatican on June 29, 2017. File photo by Massimo Percossi/EPA
Australian Cardinal George Pell speaks to members of news media at the Vatican on June 29, 2017. File photo by Massimo Percossi/EPA

May 7 (UPI) -- Australian Cardinal George Pell was aware of credible allegations of child sexual abuse against priests under his authority as early as the 1970s but failed to take action, a government inquiry has found.

Pell, a former Vatican treasurer, was aware of child abuse being committed by clergy by 1973, contrary to his long-held assertions that he knew nothing about the accusations, according to the findings of a royal commission of inquiry.

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An unredacted version of the inquiry's findings was not made public until Thursday in order to avoid prejudicing legal proceedings against Pell.

The Catholic prelate was convicted of child abuse in 2018, but was released from prison last month when Australia's supreme court threw out the conviction. The move triggered the release of more than 100 previously unseen pages of the royal commission's report.

Among its findings, the investigators found it "implausible" that Pell had not been told of child abuse allegations made against priest Gerald Ridsdale in the early 1970s.

Ridsdale later admitted to committing dozens of offenses against children over a 20-year span, many while serving as chaplain at a boys' school in the Australian city of Ballarat.

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"We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps," the commissioners said in the report.

"We are also satisfied that by 1973, Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy, but he also considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it."

The inquiry also found that Pell was explicitly told of Ridsdale's "sexual transgressions" in 1982.

Pell said Thursday he was "surprised" by the commission's findings and asserted they are "not supported by evidence."

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