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Sacked Sydney choirmaster claims Archbishop was hijacked

Sydney's Catholic Archbishop George Pell yesterday confirmed he had approved the sacking of St Mary's Cathedral's choirmaster David Russell, after Mr Russell broke his silence on the matter with a plea for his reinstatement.

Mr Russell claimed yesterday he believed he had the private support of the archbishop and likened his situation to Dr Pell's, who faced allegations concerning child sex abuse last year.

"As a man of God I call upon him to rectify this injustice to me," Mr Russell said.

Angry members of the Cathedral's choir and parents of child choristers met after Mass yesterday and called on Dr Pell to intervene and reverse the dismissal notice signed by the cathedral's dean, Monsignor Tony Doherty.

But Dr Pell said he had taken advice on the matter and could see no reason to reject the recommendation made by an independent procedure.

"All I can say is that there was an independent procedure that took some months in which [Mr Russell] participated," he said. "A recommendation was made by the independent procedure which was accepted by the dean. I had a look at the recommendation. I could see no reason not to accept that recommendation."

It is understood the NSW Ombudsman's office was involved in the independent procedure.

Mr Russell, who is now intending to sue the Sydney Archdiocese for unfair dismissal, said be believed Dr Pell was "hijacked".

Yesterday St Mary's once more had its full contingent of singers, after managing to secure an assurance from Dr Pell that the position of director of music would not be filled permanently until an appeal by Mr Russell had been heard.

In 1999 Mr Russell was charged with three counts of indecent assault of a former St Mary's choirboy. In March 2000 the case was thrown out of court due to lack of evidence to support the accusation. The police and the DPP have not taken the matter any further.

Sydney Morning Herald

Parents back sacked choirmaster (Daily Telegraph)
Archbishop was hijacked, claims sacked choirmaster (Sydney Morning Herald)
Cathedral music director dismissed after 'extensive inquiry': church (ABC)
Statement of David Russell (9/2/03)
Pedophile victim to sue church over abuse in home of sacked choirmaster (Sydney Morning Herald 8/2/03)
Anger over sacking of Sydney Cathedral stalwart (6/2/03)
Archdiocese of Sydney | St Mary's Cathedral | Sacred Music

10 Feb 2003