Pope's Australia visit overshadowed by abuse case

Allegations that a priest sex scandal was covered up and a row about civil liberties threaten to blight six-day Sydney festival

Pope Benedict XVI flies into Australia today for the longest trip yet of his three-year papacy, to be greeted by a row about civil liberties and a sexual abuse scandal embroiling the country's highest-ranked Roman Catholic cleric.

The Pope will preside over World Youth Day, a six-day festival of peace, love and Christianity, culminating in an open-air Mass next Sunday at Sydney's main horse-racing track, which is expected to attract up to half a million people.

World Youth Day has drawn an estimated 200,000 people to the city from around the world. But the Pope's arrival has been preceded by a furore over new laws that give police the power to arrest anyone who "annoys" visiting pilgrims. Offenders could be fined A$5,500 (£2,680).

Critics believe the laws – passed by the New South Wales government – are aimed at clamping down on protesters, who plan to hand out condoms during a pilgrims' procession through Sydney's eastern suburbs on Saturday.

One group, the NoToPope Coalition, claims it will be illegal to wear T-shirts with anti-Catholic slogans. They held an "annoying fashion parade" outside the state parliament last week, donning T-shirts with messages such as "Pope Go Homo".

Australia's most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, meanwhile, has spent the past week fending off accusations that he covered up the case of a young man indecently assaulted in 1982 by a priest, Father Terence Goodall.

Cardinal Pell told Anthony Jones in 2003 that a church inquiry had not upheld his allegations, although, in fact, the opposite was true. He also told Mr Jones that there had been no other complaints against Goodall and that, according to the priest, the encounter had been consensual.

On the same day, however, he wrote to another man assaulted by Goodall as an 11-year-old altar boy, informing him that his allegations had been substantiated.

An ABC television programme, Lateline, then produced telephone recordings of a conversation in which the priest admitted to Mr Jones that he knew the latter had not consented.

Cardinal Pell – who himself was forced to stand aside temporarily in 2002 following allegations, later dismissed, that he had molested a 12-year-old boy – agreed that his letter to Mr Jones had been "badly worded and a mistake". But he denied misleading him or trying to suppress the incident. Last Thursday he bowed to pressure and referred the case to an independent review panel.

The Pope – who said yesterday he would apologise in Australia for abuse by Catholic clergy, as he did while visiting the US in April – will spend the first three days of his trip at a retreat on the outskirts of Sydney, run by the ultra-conservative Catholic group Opus Dei. On Thursday, after travelling by boat across Sydney Harbour, he will receive an official welcome, and then greet crowds.

World Youth Day was the idea of the Pope's predecessor, John Paul II, who believed it would revitalise Catholic youth. The Sydney event will include more than 150 outdoor concerts, and tens of thousands of people are expected to walk across the Harbour Bridge.

The biggest problem the Pope will face is indifference. Although Catholics are the largest religious group in Australia, only a small proportion practise their faith in what is one of the world's most secular countries.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk