RC prelate accused

By on October 1, 2002

Sydney

(ENI)?The Roman Catholic Church in Australia has been thrown into crisis following sexual assault allegations against the country?s most powerful and controversial religious leader, Archbishop of Sydney George Pell.

Archbishop Pell has stood aside as archbishop, although he denies allegations that he sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy 40 years ago.

The allegations ? the first against an Australian bishop ? were made by a 52-year-old man with an extensive criminal record, who has declined to take the matter to the police despite being urged to do so.

He claims that Archbishop Pell, as a young trainee priest, assaulted him during a camp in 1961.

The inquiry into the allegations will be conducted by a retired Victoria Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell who has been appointed by the National Committee of Professional Standards, the church?s watchdog body on sexual abuse by priests. Judge Southwell is not a Catholic.

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