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Melbourne Archbishop appeals to parishioners for leads on abuse priest

Melbourne's Archbishop Denis Hart has directly appealed to members of a suburban parish for information about misconduct by disgraced priest Fr Ronald Dennis Pickering.

The appeal from Archbishop Hart was circulated to parishioners in Gardenvale, in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs, on March 25, a day after The Sunday Age newspaper revealed the archdiocese had paid more than $50,000 to victims of Father Pickering's alleged child sexual abuse.

New Scotland Yard's child protection unit in London has also been alerted about Father Pickering, who is now living in England.

The archbishop's two-page "Statement to Parishioners" outlined background on the case and the payouts made to victims by the archdiocese's "independent commission on sexual abuse".

"The archdiocese would encourage any person with knowledge concerning misconduct by Fr Pickering to contact the independent commissioner," he wrote. "I acknowledge the hurt and distress of all victims of clergy abuse."

A spokeswoman for Archbishop Hart said the statement was circulated within the parish because The Sunday Age was making details of the case public.

"It is important to restate the facts of the case as well as the commitment of the archdiocese of Melbourne to investigate allegations of abuse and assist victims," the spokeswoman said. "The statement drew a range of response from the Gardenvale parishioners."

The Age

15 Apr 2002