Australian bishops at Vatican discuss 'restoring trust'

George Pell is surrounded by Australian police as he leaves a Melbourne court, Oct 6, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - A delegation of top Australian bishops held meetings at the Vatican this week to discuss topics including the "restoration of trust" in the country where its senior Catholic Church figure is facing allegations of historical sexual offences.

The Vatican disclosed the meetings in a statement on Saturday, a day after Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's economy minister, attended a hearing in Melbourne over the allegations.

Pell, who has denied all accusations against him, has taken a leave of absence from his Vatican post to defend himself in his native Australia.

Australian police said in June that Pell had been summoned to appear on charges of historical sexual offences from multiple complainants. Details of the charges have not been made public.

The Australian delegation included the Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, the Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, and Justice Neville Owen of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.

That council is coordinating the Australian Catholic Church's response to a government body, known as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, looking into child sexual abuse in various sectors of Australian society.

The Vatican statement said the topics at the meeting included the Royal Commission, "the relationship between the Church and society at large, the restoration of trust, and greater participation of the laity in decision-making roles in the Church"

It gave no further details.

Pell's March 5 committal hearing will determine whether the case should proceed to a full trial.

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