In his first sit-down interview since giving evidence at the Royal Commission, Cardinal George Pell admitted he put the church before clergy abuse victims "for a while" but claimed there "is no shred of evidence that I'm a man of cover-up".
Australia's highest ranking Catholic told Andrew Bolt, in an hour long interview broadcast on Sky News on Friday night, he was scared to meet the survivors of child sex abuse who travelled to Rome to hear him testify in the fear of going "backwards rather than forwards".
"I didn't want a punch up that would make things worse for the church.. or them," Pell told Bolt.
On Thursday Pell met with Australian survivors of clergy abuse and publicly pledged to work with the Ballarat abuse survivors in helping others still suffering.
"I heard each of their stories and of their suffering," Cardinal Pell said, reading from a handwritten statement after the meeting.
"It was hard. An honest and occasionally emotional meeting.
"I know many of their families and I know of the goodness of so many people in Catholic Ballarat, a goodness that is not extinguished by the evil that was done."
In the interview on Friday, Pell also said he would not resign over the abuse cover-up allegations as it would be seen as an admission of guilt.
Pell, who now controls the Vatican's finances, claimed he is now trying to clean up financial corruption in the church in the same way he cleaned up abuse in Melbourne. The Cardinal also claimed $1.4 billion of assets are "not on the books".
Pell says "$1.4 billion of assets not on the books" when asked about church corruption (@Dan_Bourchier)— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 4, 2016
Pell: I’m here trying to do with the finances, what I did to clean up paedophilia in Melbourne. #Pellinterview— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 4, 2016
Bolt: Are you looking for forgiveness from the victims?— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 4, 2016
Pell: Pretty well. #pellinterview
Pell: I fully concede the terrible crimes that have happened, but I hope Australians will give the church and me a fair go. #pellinterview— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 4, 2016
Bolt: Do you think you're being held to a different standard?— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 4, 2016
Pell: I think that's something to be examined.
On Friday, Bolt -- a public supporter of the Cardinal, who said no questions were off limits in the unedited interview -- wrote in his Herald Sun column that while “Pell was sometimes dangerously incurious about warning signs of paedophile priests, there were many more people guiltier then he.”
Pell gave evidence via videolink in Rome to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in a four day testimony this week.
Australia's highest ranking Catholic told the Commission -- which is investigating how church authorities handled allegations of sex abuse in Victoria in the 1970s, 80s and 90s -- he "should have done more".
Pell admitted an abused boy complained to him directly about a Christian brother at a Victorian school "misbehaving with boys". The Cardinal said he originally didn't do anything about the claim, before eventually inquiring with the school chaplain.