Despite having testified before the commission twice before on the same charges, Pell again offered to give his testimony, which he did via video conference from Rome.
Shortly before the hearing, abuse allegations surfaced accusing the cardinal of multiple counts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961, which he has continued to fervently deny.
In a June 29 communiqué released after Cardinal Pell made his statement to journalists, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the Holy See learned with "regret" about the charges filed for "decades-old actions" that have been attributed to the cardinal.
"Having become aware of the charges, Card. Pell, acting in full respect for civil laws, has decided to return to his country to face the charges against him, recognizing the importance of his participation to ensure that the process is carried out fairly, and to foster the search for truth," the communiqué read.
Echoing Pell's own statement, Burke affirmed that Pope Francis has granted the cardinal an absence from his duties "so he can defend himself," and that in his absence, the Secretariat for the Economy will continue to carry out its work.
The secretaries in the department will remain at their posts to carry forward the dicastery's work "donec aliter provideatur," meaning "until otherwise provided."
Pope Francis, Burke said, "has appreciated Cardinal Pell's honesty during his three years of work in the Roman Curia," and is grateful for his collaboration and "energetic dedication to the reforms in the economic and administrative sector, as well as his active participation in the Council of Cardinals (C9)."
On behalf of the Holy See, Burke voiced respect for the Australian justice system, which "will have to decide the merits of the questions raised."
However, at the same time, he said "it is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors" and has cooperated with Australian authorities in the past, specifically with his depositions before the Royal Commission.
Moreover, the cardinal has been supportive of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and as a diocesan bishop in Australia, introduced systems and procedures "both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse."
Burke closed noting that Cardinal Pell will no longer be attending public events while facing the charges, and as such would be absent from the day's today's Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, to be celebrated by Pope Francis and attended by all new metropolitan archbishops appointed during the previous year.
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Elise Harris was senior Rome correspondent for CNA from 2012 to 2018.