Monday, March 29, 2010

Australian cardinal set to lead Church inquiry

Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, has been tipped as the man who will be appointed to carry out the promised Apostolic Visitation of the Irish Church.

Pope Benedict promised the appointment in order to investigate several Irish dioceses, seminaries and religious orders in an effort to eradicate clerical child abuse.

Pell, whose mother’s maiden name was Burke, is a frequent visitor to Ireland. Last July, he was the main speaker at a liturgical conference in Fota, Co Cork.

The 68-year-old is acquainted with many of the Irish bishops, and is knowledgeable about the politics of the Irish Church.

Pell was ordained auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne in 1987, and appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

Five years later, Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Sydney, and he received the red hat in 2003.

A former visiting scholar at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Pell, from 1990 to 2000, was a member oft he Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which the then Cardinal Ratzinger was the long-time head, and of which Cardinal Desmond Connell was a member.

In 2005, Pell was appointed a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and he was said to be a key figure in the conclave which elected Pope Benedict.

In 1996, Pell set up Australia’s first independent commission to inquire into sexual abuse by members oft he Catholic clergy.

But he himself later was accused and, in 2002, he stood down when he was accused of a busing a man 40 years previously.

An independent inquiry by a retired Supreme Court judge cleared Pell of any involvement with his accuser.

A close friend of Pell said last Friday that he had been talking to the cardinal during the week, but the Irish proposal had not been mentioned.

‘‘But having to handle someone in the first division, like Archbishop Martin of Dublin, the Pope would have to appoint someone from the first division," he said.

‘‘The cardinal has the advantage that he’s English speaking, he loves Ireland, he has experience of similar visitations and he’s a close confidant of Pope Benedict.

‘‘Although the cardinal hasn’t indicated he’s been asked to go, if the Pope asks, you go. That’s the game at that level," the friend said.

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