Cardinal George Pell interviewed in Rome over sexual assault allegations

Three members of Victoria Police have interviewed Cardinal George Pell in Rome.  Photo: 2UE
Three members of Victoria Police have interviewed Cardinal George Pell in Rome. Photo: 2UE

Victorian police have questioned Australia's most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, as they investigate allegations of historical sexual abuse made against him.

Three police travelled to Rome last week to meet the former Ballarat priest and Melbourne archbishop, who rejects all the allegations and voluntarily participated in an interview.

"As a result of the interview further investigations are continuing. We are not prepared to comment further at this time," police said in a statement on Wednesday.

Police are investigating multiple allegations of sexual assault said to have occurred in Ballarat East between 1976 and 1980, and East Melbourne between 1996 and 2001.

The allegations include claims Cardinal Pell touched children's genitals while they swam at a Ballarat's Eureka public pool. One man claimed he saw the priest expose himself to young boys at the Torquay Surf Life Saving Club in the late 1980s.

Another alleged victim, Lyndon Monument, welcomed news of the development in the investigation.

"Well done to Taskforce SANO for going to the Vatican, I hope justice will prevail," he said.

Mr Monument told ABC's 7.30 program in July that Cardinal Pell abused him by putting his hand down the front of his bathers during a game in the water at the pool.

Cardinal Pell was a larger-than-life figure at the Eureka pool during the summers of the late 1970s and popular with children.

He was known as "big George" and the "man mountain" who would throw children off his shoulders and into the pool on hot summer days.

Bright coloured ribbons were tied to the gates of the empty pool on Wednesday afternoon. The ribbons are a part of the Loud Fence movement as a symbol of solidarity with sexual abuse victims across Ballarat.

Cardinal Pell, who now works at the Vatican for Pope Francis, on Wednesday confirmed he was interviewed voluntarily in a brief statement in which he also rejected the allegations.

"The Cardinal repeats his previous rejection of all and every allegation of sexual abuse and will continue to co-operate with Victoria Police until the investigation is finalised," the statement said.

Cardinal Pell has previously described the allegations as "without foundation and utterly false", adding that like any other Australian, he deserved "a fair go".

Helen Last from victims advocacy group, In Good Faith Foundation, said she hoped justice was achieved as a result of the police investigation.

"It is very good news that the investigation process is moving on appropriately in regard to these horrific allegations that have been made," she said.

"It's a very positive sign that intervention of this power and nature by our police force can and will be done and it doesn't matter at what level you are in the church."

Ballarat clergy abuse survivor Andrew Collins said while victims were pleased police had interviewed Cardinal Pell, they understood there was a legal process that must be followed.

"This is a positive step for Pell's alleged victims but we must remember that Pell is innocent in the eyes of the law at this stage," Mr Collins said.

This story Cardinal George Pell interviewed in Rome over sexual assault allegations first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.