Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has welcomed Cardinal George Pell’s exoneration by the High Court of Australia while acknowledging that it may reopen the wounds of those who have suffered sexual abuse.
The cardinal’s convictions for historical sex abuse offences were quashed in an unanimous decision of the seven-member full bench. The judgement was delivered this morning at 10am and the cardinal was released from Barwon Prison shortly after midday.
Archbishop Fisher welcomed the cardinal’s exoneration and thanked the judges for their “meticulous review of the facts” and detailed judgement giving their reasons for acquittal.
“I am pleased that the Cardinal will now be released and I ask that the pursuit of him that brought us to this point now cease,” he said in a statement.
Commitment to ongoing action
The archbishop said that Cardinal Pell’s trial had also been a trial of the country’s legal system and culture.
“The Cardinal’s vindication today invites broader reflection on our system of justice, our commitment to the presumption of innocence, and our treatment of high profile figures accused of crimes,” he said.
“I recognise that the past failings of the Church to protect children have contributed to public anger directed at the Church and its leaders.
“I know that it is only by our sustained action seeking justice for all survivors of child sexual abuse and exhibiting best practice in safeguarding all vulnerable people that healing will occur and trust be restored.
“Justice for victims is never served by…wrongful conviction and imprisonment”
“Some will struggle with today’s decision. Cases like these can reopen the wounds of survivors of abuse so that they feel like they are on trial too.
“But justice for victims is never served by the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of anyone. I hope and pray that the finality of the legal processes will bring some closure and healing to all affected.”