In Brief

Cardinal George Pell: Australian cleric accused of child abuse

Clergyman calls allegations dating back to the 1970s a 'scandalous smear campaign'

Australia's most senior Catholic priest, Cardinal George Pell, has called claims that he sexually abused children a "scandalous smear campaign".

Allegations dating from the 1970s to 1990s first surfaced six months ago in the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne. Last night, Australian broadcaster ABC aired them in detail in a "special report".

Two men now in their forties say the cardinal touched them inappropriately in his home city of Ballarat, Victoria, in the 1970s. In a separate claim, a man says he found Pell naked in front of three young boys in the 1980s.

ABC also reports another complaint from the 1990s involving two teenage choirboys, one of whom has since died, but gave no further details.

According to the broadcaster, Victoria police commissioner Graham Ashton confirmed there had been a year-long investigation of "multiple allegations" of sexual abuse.

Ashton told a Melbourne radio station he had not provided ABC with any materials for the programme but had watched it.

"Anyone that saw the show last night, the victims, you could see their emotion, they are traumatised from what they are saying has happened to them, and are talking to the media about that," he added.

However, Pell said police have not sought to interview him since the allegations were first aired six months ago, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

His office told the newspaper: "These disclosures and consequent publicity by the ABC clearly are apt and calculated deliberately to influence and compromise relevant judicial and prosecutorial processes."

In February, Pell was interviewed by an Australian royal commission over whether he had known there were paedophiles active in churches for which he was responsible, reports the BBC. He denied all knowledge.

In the early 1970s, Pell lived in a seminary with the notorious paedophile priest Gerald Risdale, adds the broadcaster.

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