In Brief

In Brief Cardinal Pell
Australian prelate’s appeal begins

This week sees Australian Cardinal George Pell making a case for a last chance of freedom, with his case being heard by the Appeals Division of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Three judges will preside over the June 5-6 hearing, with a decision expected within several months.

The cardinal was convicted on December 11 on five charges of sexually abusing the two boys while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997, after a previous trial for the same charges had left the jury deadlocked the previous August.

Cardinal Pell, who turns 78 on Saturday, is not required to attend the hearing in person. His legal team will argue the appeal on three grounds, most importantly that the December verdict was “unreasonable and cannot be supported having regard to the evidence”.

EU bishops call for unity after elections

Church leaders have welcomed the outcome of last week’s EU elections as endorsing their continent’s unity, but also called for stronger dialogue in European politics. “People have shown responsibility by voting. This is a very positive sign,” said Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, president of the Brussels-based Commission of European Union Bishops’ Conference, or COMECE.

“My message to politicians now is not just to engage in party politics, but to consider the needs of Europe’s citizens,” he said. “Europe is built on compromises, so we should move in that direction.”

Officials knew of McCarrick restrictions – former secretary

Pope Benedict XVI imposed restrictions on the public ministry of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2008, but they were not formal sanctions and were not followed strictly, even during the papacy of Pope Benedict himself, McCarrick’s former secretary has said.

Msgr Anthony Figueiredo, who was the former cardinal’s secretary for nine months in 1994-1995, but continued to assist him from Rome, released extracts from correspondence last week, saying he wanted the truth out about what was known about McCarrick, when and by whom.

Besides knowing about the restrictions himself, the monsignor also said he had evidence that Washington DC’s recently retired Cardinal Donald Wuerl knew about them, along with Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then-prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then-Vatican secretary of state and Archbishop Pietro Sambi.

Four Catholics die in latest Burkina Faso church attack

Attackers believed to have been Muslim extremists have killed four people and wounded two more in a Catholic church in Burkina Faso. The attackers opened fire in the Church of Our Lady of All Joy in the village of Toulfe during Mass. In a statement, Bishop Justin Kientega of Ouahigouya urged Catholics to “pray for peace and the conversion of the executioners”. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

French commission into clerical sex abuse begins

An independent commission set up by the French Catholic Church to look at allegations of clerical sexual abuse has begun its work by calling for witness statements.

The country’s bishops decided in November to set up the commission following a series of scandals. It will investigate allegations of abuse stretching back to the 1950s.

“For the first time in France, an independent institution is going to launch, over the course of a year, an appeal for witness statements about sexual abuse,”  commission president Jean-Marc Sauve said, promising that the 22-strong commission would deliver its findings by the end of next year.

Mr Sauve said he expects thousands of telephone calls to a special hotline, along with email messages, with abuse survivors being offered face-to-face interviews in a later stage.