CARDINAL George Pell has admitted to joining notorious pedophile Gerald Ridsdale at one of his 1993 court appearances so his subordinate could get a lighter sentence on child sex abuse charges.
The 74-year-old told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse yesterday it was his "Christian" duty to be "kind to prisoners".
Speaking by video link from Rome, Cardinal Pell said he went to court with Ridsdale because the former priest's lawyer asked him to.
Cardinal Pell conceded the decision was a "mistake".
"I had some status as an auxiliary bishop and I was asked to appear with the ambition that this would lessen the term of punishment, lessen his time in jail," Cardinal Pell said.
"I walked with him, following the Christian conviction that it's an appropriate activity to be kind to prisoners.
"The separation of the sheep from the goats is the acts of kindness we do to people, including those who are prisoners and those who are at the bottom of the pile like Ridsdale."
Cardinal Pell also apologised for saying this week that Ridsdale's offending "was a sad story and wasn't of much interest to me".
He said he was "very confused" when he made the "badly expressed" statement.
Cardinal Pell also told the commission that if the church had immediately investigated the crimes of pedophile priest Father Paul David Ryan, one of Ryan's victims might not have killed himself.
Ryan did not face court until 2006 despite abusing children in Ararat in the 1990s.
Peter Watson is believed to have suicided as a result of Ryan's abuse.
When asked about whether Mr Watson would still be alive if the church had responded appropriately, Cardinal Pell replied, "A proper investigation could have helped impede that (the suicide)."
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