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Cardinal admits ‘scandalous ‘ response to abuse allegations

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From left, Dominic Ridsdale, Phil Nagle, Tony Waroley, Stephen Woods and Peter Blenkiron, survivors and relatives of priestly sex abuse, stand in front of the Quirinale hotel in Rome, on Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

ROME — One of Pope Francis’ top advisers acknowledges that the Catholic Church “has made enormous mistakes” in allowing thousands of children to be raped and molested by priests over centuries in testimony at an extraordinary public hearing of an Australian investigative commission just a few blocks from the Vatican.

Cardinal George Pell testified late Sunday via videolink from a Rome hotel to the Royal Commission sitting in Sydney. In the front row of the conference room were two dozen Australian abuse survivors and their companions who had travelled across the globe to be on hand for Pell’s testimony.

The lead counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness, is questioning Pell about current Vatican efforts to address the scandal as well as Pell’s past in Australia, including how he dealt with abuse allegations.

Pell asserted at the start: “I’m not here to defend the indefensible. The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those.”

The cardinal says too many legitimate allegations about sexual abuse from credible sources were often dismissed “in scandalous circumstances.”