Cardinal George Pell maintains he is innocent of historical child sexual assault allegations, The Age reports.
Speaking to reporters in Rome yesterday, Cardinal Pell reiterated his rebuttal of all the allegations of abuse made against him, saying he would "just like to restate my innocence".
"I stand by everything I have said at the royal commission [into institutional responses to child sexual abuse] and in other places," he said. "We have to respect due process, wait until it is concluded and obviously I will continue to co-operate fully."
Meanwhile, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has defended Cardinal Pell from "relentless character attacks" in relation to the allegations. In a strongly worded statement yesterday, Archbishop Fisher said Cardinal Pell was entitled to the presumption of innocence.
"It is unfortunate that in the very week this happens, media and authors publish and repeat allegations, some of which have already been thoroughly answered. This cannot assist the impartial pursuit of justice. What is clear, however, is that Cardinal Pell has co-operated in every way with multiple police, parliamentary and royal commission investigations," he said.
"Everyone supports just investigation of complaints but the relentless character attacks on Cardinal Pell, by some, stand the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty on its head.
"Australians have a right to expect better from their legal systems and the media. Even churchmen have a right to 'a fair go'."
Andrew Halphen, from the Law Institute of Victoria, said it was "completely inappropriate" that information about the investigation into Cardinal Pell had again been leaked to the media.
He said the "lack of regard" for the Cardinal's rights were "a startling affront" to the cornerstone of the legal system.
"In the event Pell is charged I hold grave concerns that he will receive a fair trial," said Mr Halphen, the co-chair of the Criminal Law Section. "There is a serious risk a stay application could be made should this matter reach the courts owing to the prejudicial material that has been published."