Pope's retirement to set a bad precedent: Cardinal George Pell

FORMER Ballarat priest and Australia’s most senior Catholic George Pell has criticised outgoing Pope Benedict XVI, saying his retirement sets a worrying precedent.

Cardinal Pell, in a television interview yesterday, voiced concerns about the decision.

“People who, for example, might disagree with a future pope will mount a campaign to get him to resign,” he said.

He described Pope Benedict as a “brilliant teacher”, but noted that: “government wasn’t his strongest point”.

“He’s got to know his theology, but I think I prefer somebody who can lead the church and pull it together a bit,” he said.

Pope Benedict retires this week and the behind-closed-doors conclave ballot system used to select his successor is likely to begin in early March.

Cardinal Pell, 71, travelled to the Vatican late last week to join the 116 other cardinals, aged under 80, who will form the conclave at the Sistine Chapel. He will be the only cardinal from the Oceania region to vote at the conclave and he is one of just 50 attending the vote who also helped select Benedict XVI during the 2005 conclave.

He said he was “highly unlikely” to be in line for a promotion, although he did not rule it out.

“It could happen – I’m Catholic, I’m a bishop, I’m a cardinal,” he said.

• The Victorian parliamentary inquiry into institutional sexual abuse resumes in Ballarat today.

It will be held at Ballarat Lodge between 10am and 3.10pm, with the six-member committee hearing individual submissions.

The year-long inquiry was announced by Premier Ted Baillieu and Attorney-General Robert Clark last April and is being overseen by the bipartisan Family and Community Development Committee.

Its final report is expected by April 30.

The inquiry previously sat in Ballarat on December 7 last year.

Catholic Bishop of Ballarat Paul Bird said he welcomed the inquiry’s return.

“This is a further opportunity for victims to tell of the abuse they suffered, the breach of trust by priests and other church workers, and the impact on their lives and those of their families and friends,” Bishop Bird said.

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