Written by Staff Writer
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal George Pell, the highest-ranking Catholic official to resign in the wake of child sex abuse allegations in Australia.
The Vatican said the Australian archbishop, who was Vatican treasurer at the time of the abuse claims, was asked to step down last month over the allegations that he abused two teenage boys in the 1970s.
After his resignation, Pell sent the Vatican a letter “emphatically denying the allegations,” the office of his successor, Cardinal Carlo Maria Vigano, said in a statement.
His resignation, he said, “is not forced upon me, but rather I can no longer fulfill my ministry due to health problems.”
The Vatican said the decision to resign was taken jointly by Pell and Pope Francis.
The Cardinal’s “statement reiterates his deeply-felt and sincere denial of the charges brought against him by the individuals concerned,” the statement said.
Several Australian priests and a lay employee of the Vatican’s secretariat of state have been charged with child sex offenses, including Pell, who is accused of abuse while attending a seminary in Melbourne in the 1970s.
The Vatican’s condemnation of his charges was aired in a letter by Vigano, an apostolic nuncio who was appointed to the Holy See in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.
In the letter, published Sunday, Vigano said Pell “launched a devastating assault on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, most especially the weakest and most defenseless: the children.”
The accusations, Vigano claimed, had a “total collapse of the cardinal’s system and proved the criminal abuse of power.”
The Vatican denunciation also took aim at Pell’s accuser, who will remain anonymous.
“The mere fact that he has been charged with child abuse indicates that he has followed in a path of criminality, bringing great shame on his family, as well as the State of Victoria, Australia and the Australian Catholic Church,” Vigano wrote.