Seven prominent Catholic officials from around Australia have written an open letter endorsing Cardinal George Pell ahead of his next appearance at the royal commission into child sexual abuse.
Five archbishops and two bishops signed the statement which described the former archbishop of Sydney as a “man of integrity who is committed to helping others”.
“His style can be robust and direct; he does not wear his heart on his sleeve,” the statement said.
“But underneath he has a big heart for people.”
The statement also said Cardinal Pell had previously acknowledged his mistakes and apologised for the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse cases.
“Cardinal Pell was one of the first bishops in the world to put in place a comprehensive church response to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and to provide survivors with redress and counselling,” the statement said.
“He has responded to criticisms that have been made of his handling of these matters over the years, acknowledged mistakes frankly, and apologised for them.
“We appreciate the cardinal’s strong and unfailing support for the important work of the royal commission and his constant readiness to assist the royal commission whenever he is asked to do so.”
The letter was signed by Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe, Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous, Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn Christopher Prowse, Bishop of Broken Bay Peter Comensoli and Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Terence Brady.
It said the bishops endorsed the support voiced by Melbourne’s archbishop earlier this week.
It was announced this week that Cardinal Pell would be called to the next hearing of the royal commission in Ballarat.
He had previously stated he would be willing to appear if called.
Peter Saunders, a survivor of abuse, appeared on Channel Nine on Sunday, calling Cardinal Pell’s handling of abuse victims “almost sociopathic” and urging Pope Francis to take the “strongest possible action” against him.
A spokesperson for Cardinal Pell called the statements “false and misleading” and said he was seeking legal advice.