Pope says Cardinal George Pell should not be judged - yet - over child abuse claims

Cardinal Pell has accused Victoria police of conspiring with the media over abuse claimsYouTube

Pope Francis has said that people should withhold judgement and not "gossip" about Cardinal George Pell, who has been accused of sexually abusing children in Australia during the 1970s.

Cardinal Pell has called for an investigation into Australia's Victoria police and claimed he is the victim of a "scandalous smear campaign" after allegations against him emerged of historic sexual abuse towards children.

The comments from the Pope - who appointed Pell as head of the Vatican's secretariat for the economy in 2014 -came as he was flying back from Poland after World Youth Day.

He said that no-one should judge Pell before justice has taken its course.

"The first information that arrived was confusing," Pope Francis told journalists. "It was news from 40 years back that not even the police made a case about at first. It was a confusing thing. Then, all the rest of the accusations were sent to justice. Right now, they are in the hands of justice. And one mustn't judge before justice judges, eh? If I were to say a judgement in favour of or against Cardinal Pell, it wouldn't be good because I [would] judge before...we must wait for justice and not make a first judgement ourselves, a media trial...because this doesn't help. The judgement of gossip and then, one can...we don't know what the result will be but be attentive to what justice decides. Once justice speaks, I will speak."

In a documentary broadcast on the ABC network in Australia last week, two men claimed they were abused by the Cardinal when he was a priest in Ballarat, Victoria, in the summer of 1978-1979.

The incidents took place while Pell was allegedly playing with schoolchildren in a swimming pool.

The men, now in their 40s, are believed to have given statements to the Victoria police special child exploitation taskforce, Sano, detailing the incidents.