Cardinal George Pell has linked his fight against corruption in the Vatican with his prosecution in Australia for alleged child sex abuse.
Pell was regarded as the third highest-ranking Vatican official in 2018 when he became the world's most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse. He served 13 months in prison before Australia's High Court last week acquitted him of molesting two choirboys in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne while he was archbishop of Australia's second-largest city in the 1990s.
Pope Francis' former finance minister said in a television interview broadcast on Tuesday that some church officials believed he was prosecuted by Australian authorities because of the trouble he had caused in the Vatican in implementing financial reforms.
"Most of the senior people in Rome who are in any way sympathetic to financial reforms believe that they are" linked to the prosecution, the 78-year-old cleric told Sky News.
"What was surprising was even my theological opponents in Rome didn't believe the stories" of sexual abuse, he added.
Pell said he did not have evidence of a link. But he suspected that a man who swore he had been sexually abused by Pell as a 13-year-old choirboy more than two decades ago had been "used."
Francis created the Secretariat for the Economy, and named Pell its prefect, as a key part of his financial reform plans after being elected pope in 2013. Pell had tried to wrestle the Holy See's opaque finances into order and align them with international standards, but his efforts and brusque style were rebuffed repeatedly by the Vatican's old guard.
Pell stood aside from the job in 2017 to return to Australia, determined to clear himself of decades-old allegations of child sex abuse.
Francis named a 60-year-old Spanish economist, the Rev. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, as Pell's successor last year, a day after Australia's Victoria state Court of Appeal agreed to hear his case to overturn the convictions. The court upheld Pell's convictions in a 2-1 majority decision.
Alves came to his new job in a period of financial crisis, after Vatican prosecutors raided the Secretariat of State and the Holy See's financial watchdog after receiving reports of a suspicious real estate transaction.
Pell said Francis had "absolutely" supported him, even though "My theological views ... don't line up exactly with Pope Francis."
"I think he values my honesty and perhaps that I would say things that some other people mightn't say, and I think he respects me for that," Pell added.
Pell said that neither Francis nor Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin were corrupt, but that he did not know how high Vatican corruption rose.
"Just how high up it goes is an interesting hypothesis," he said.
Pell said he'll return to Rome after the coronavirus pandemic to pack up his apartment, but that he plans to make his home in Sydney, where he had been archbishop.
Victoria police refused to comment on newspaper reports Tuesday that they have begun investigating another child abuse allegation against Pell dating to the 1970s.
Pell said he "wouldn't be entirely surprised" if police continued to pursue him. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Pell said he was "ashamed" of his church over its child abuse crisis.
"There are two levels. One is the crimes themselves and then the treating it so inadequately for so long," Pell said.
He warned in child abuse cases that "guilt by accusation" was "not a sign of a civilization."
"The pendulum 30 or 40 years ago was massively against anybody who said that they'd been attacked," Pell said. "Nowadays we don't want it to swing back so that every accusation is regarded as gospel truth. That would be quite unjust and inappropriate."
Pell's accuser in his trial, a man in his 30s whose identity is concealed by law, said in a statement last week that he hoped Pell's acquittal would not deter child abuse victims from reporting to police.
"I would like to reassure child abuse survivors that most people recognize the truth when they hear it," said the man, described in court as Witness J. "They know the truth when they look it in the face. I am content with that."
The Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans welcomed a new resident, a baby giraffe named Hope.
Sue Ellen, a middle-aged giraffe at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, gave birth Monday, according to a Friday news release.
Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman said Hope was the perfect name for the calf, especially as New Orleans has been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic.
"What name could be more fitting than 'Hope" in these challenging times?" Forman said. "Hope is what has sustained our community through seemingly insurmountable crises in the past and what we must hold onto as we continue on in the coming days and weeks. May we all take comfort in the reminder that, even in the darkest of days, life continues, undaunted."
Species Survival Center curator Michelle Hatwood said the staff had known the calf was on the way for 15 months but said it can be tough to pinpoint a likely delivery date for giraffes.
The calf was born 6-feet (1.8-meters) tall, weighing in at 189 pounds (86 kilograms).
Located on 1,200 acres of land west of downtown New Orleans, the center is now home to 13 giraffes, the release said. The new calf was the eighth giraffe born at the center as part of the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife conservation breeding partnership with San Diego Zoo Global.
The giraffes reside in a 46-acre forested area and spend most of their day foraging and looking for their favorite leaves to eat.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in Louisiana, the Audubon Nature Institute has been forced to close its facilities to the public. It's asking federal officials for assistance in providing funds to larger nonprofits like zoos and aquariums.
Australia on Wednesday banned non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people including weddings and restaurants as part a range of measures that could be maintained implemented for more than six months to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
"This is a once in 100-year type event," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. "We are looking at a situation of at least six months for how we deal with this. It could be much longer than that. It could be shorter. That is unlikely, given the way we are seeing events unfold."
The indoor limit follows an earlier ban on outdoor gatherings exceeding 500.
Weddings and religious services are regarded as non-essential while health and emergency service facilities are exempt.
Disability and aged care centers are open but restricting visitors. Schools will also remain open, although some medical experts argue for their closure.
Australians have been advised not to travel overseas. Work restrictions on 20,000 foreign student nurses in Australia would be lifted so that they can bolster health resources battling the pandemic.
Australia by Wednesday had 454 confirmed infections among a population of 25 million, but the infection rate is gathering pace.
The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people but can be severe in some cases, especially older adults and people with existing health problems. People with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may need six weeks to recover.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said most of the cases were Australians returning from overseas and community transmission in Australia remained "low-level at the moment."
The government announced giving its ailing airlines a 715 million Australian dollar ($430 million) lifeline to help the sector through the pandemic.
A range of government charges will be refunded and waived to help airlines under pressure as domestic and global travel plummet.
The move is expected to create an initial benefit of AU$159 million, with the government refunding charges paid since Feb. 1.
The Airlines for Australia and New Zealand group applauded the government package for a "critical pillar" of the Australian economy and the tourism industry.
The package comes a day after Australia's largest airline, Qantas, announced it would slash its international passenger seats by 90% and domestic capacity by 60% through May at least.
Its major rival, Virgin Australia, announced on Wednesday it would ground all its international flights and half its domestic capacity from the end of March until June 14.
Regional airline Regional Express has urged the government to underwrite the addition debt it will need to survive the downturn.
Plastic waste from the ocean is washing up and increasing pollution on Australian beaches, researchers have found.
In a study published on Wednesday, a team from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and Utrecht University in the Netherlands revealed that plastic waste in the ocean is making its way back to the Australian shore where it is trapped by coastal vegetation.
Denise Hardesty, a Principal Research Scientist from the CSIRO, said that the amount of debris on beaches explains why estimates of waste entering the ocean are 100 times larger than the amount of plastic observed floating on the surface.
"We collected data on the amount and location of plastic pollution every 100 kilometres around the entire coast of Australia between 2011 and 2016," she said in a media release.
"The highest concentrations of marine debris were found along the coastal backshores, where the vegetation begins."
At the beginning of March, Australian Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison committed to significantly boosting Australia's recycling capacity, saying that the Pacific has been bearing the brunt of the ocean pollution crisis.
Analysis of the data collected by CSIRO was conducted by a team from Utrecht University.
"The debris recorded along the coasts was found to be a mix of littering and deposition from the ocean," Arianna Olivelli, who led the analysis, said.
"The results suggest that plastic is moving from urban areas into the ocean, and then being transported back onshore, and pushed onto land, where it remains.
"Onshore wind and waves, together with more densely populated areas, influence the amount and distribution of marine debris. The further back we went from the water's edge, the more debris we found."
Australia on Thursday put forward a $17.6 billion (US $11.4 billion) stimulus package meant to stave off a recession due to the impact of the virus outbreak on its economy.
The package includes cash payments for small businesses and welfare recipients to counter the impact of the disease, which has infected more than 126,000 people worldwide.
Australia has recorded 127 cases of the virus and three deaths. The World Health Organization declared Wednesday that the global coronavirus crisis is now a pandemic causing, jolting markets worldwide and raising the sense of urgency surrounding efforts to contain it.
The Australian government will spend 11 billion Australian dollars($7.1 billion) before June 30, the end of the financial year, with the remainder to be spent before July 2021.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the package would provide an immediate stimulus to Australia's economy. Up to 6.5 million people — nearly a quarter of the country's population — on government benefits, including pensioners, the unemployed and family tax benefits, will receive one-off payments of 750 Australian dollars each ($485).
"The biggest beneficiaries of that will be pensioners," Morrison said. "They comprise around half of those who will receive those payments."
Morrison said small and medium businesses will receive cash payments of between 2,000 Australian dollars ($1,294) and 25,000 Australian dollars ($16,184) to help pay wages or hire extra staff.
"This plan is about keeping Australians in jobs," he said. "This plan is about keeping a business in business and this plan is about ensuring the Australian economy bounces back stronger on the other side of this and, with that, the budget bounces back with it."
The stimulus package also includes a 1 billion Australian dollar ($650 million) fund to help its embattled tourism sector, which has been sluggish since the wildfires disaster reared late last year.
They were the first stimulus measures in Australia since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago. Morrison's conservative government has been trying to ward off the growing risk of the country's first recession in nearly three decades.
Earlier this month, Australia's central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a record low of 0.5% in response to the outbreak.
The stimulus measures were announced following a 2.4 billion Australian dollar ($1.6 billion) health package, which includes up to 100 coronavirus fever clinics to be set up in areas of need across Australia.