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'Black Books' Writer Starts Fund To Send George Pell To Australia

He wants to help Pell 'clear his name'.

14/02/2017 12:30 PM AEDT | Updated 14/02/2017 1:03 PM AEDT

The writer of television comedies Black Books, The IT Crowd and Father Ted has started a crowdfunding campaign to bring Cardinal George Pell to Australia from Rome via chartered ambulance so he can "clear his name" over allegations of wrongdoing.

Writer and director Graham Linehan has started a crowd funder campaign to raise $460,000 to bring Pell from Rome to Australia, with medical staff, as Victoria Police investigate allegations of historic sexual abuse made against Pell.

In December 2015, Pell's lawyers told the sex abuse Royal Commission he was unable to travel from Rome to give testimony about how the Church responded to child sex abuse allegations because the Cardinal suffered from hypertension.

He appeared by video link in February 2016, where he gave evidence on his response to allegations of abuse made against colleagues in Victoria when he was a rising church official.

Separately, Victoria Police have been investigating allegations of sex abuse made against Pell. In early February they handed a brief of evidence to prosecutors for review.

The Huffington Post Australia has approached Linehan for comment.

"Cardinal Pell's lawyers claim that he has come down with a terrible case of hypertension since the accusations have surfaced, meaning he cannot travel," Linehan's crowdfunder says.

"We have received a quote for a chartered air ambulance and medical staff that comes to £278,000 ($A456,000). Let's raise that money together so Cardinal Pell can return to Australia and clear his name!"

If they raise the funds and Pell still can't come to Australia, the proceeds will be sent to the Blue Knot foundation.

The allegations, which first became public in 2015, in part concern two men who said they were groped by Pell when he was a priest in Ballarat in the 1970's.

There is no suggestion that Pell is guilty, only that the allegations are being investigated.

Pell released a statement last year saying he rejected "all and every allegation of sexual abuse" and would work with police. In October three police officers flew to Rome and Pell reportedly volunteered for an interview.

The cardinal, who is in charge of the Vatican's finances, has also previously called for an investigation into Victoria Police and the national broadcaster, the ABC.

Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton told ABC Radio Melbourne last week the evidence brief remained with the Office of Public Prosecution.

"We're waiting to hear from them on whether that's a matter that will proceed or won't proceed," he said, and also confirmed that prosecutors had returned the brief of evidence to police because it needed "some more work done in a couple of areas".

It's not the first time Pell has been the focus of a crowdfunding campaign. In February last year comedian and musician Tim Minchin released a no-holds-barred song urging Pell to return to Australia to appear in person at the Royal Commission.

Proceeds from sales of the song on iTunes went into a crowdfunding effort to send child sex abuse survivors to Rome to see Cardinal Pell give evidence at the commission.

Last week Royal Commission released data showed 4,444 people had complained of sex abuse in the Australian Catholic Church between 1980 and 2015, while 1,880 alleged perpetrators had been identified.

According to the Royal Commission figures, between 1950 and 2010 8.1 percent of priests in the Melbourne Archdiocese were alleged perpetrators of abuse, while in the diocese of Ballarat that figure is 8.7 percent.

The Australians Senate last week called on Pell to return to Australia and face allegations of misconduct.



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