ROME, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Clergy sexual abuse survivor Marie Collins told Italian newspaper La Repubblica in an interview Friday that the placing on leave of Cardinal George Pell, a senior adviser to Pope Francis, had "come too late."
The Pope placed Pell on leave Thursday, after the Cardinal announced at a Vatican press conference that he was leaving to fight sexual assault charges in Australia.
In an official statement, the Vatican Press Office said Thursday that the Vatican "has learned with regret the news of charges filed in Australia against Card. George Pell for decades-old actions that have been attributed to him."
"The Holy Father, having been informed by Card. Pell, has granted the cardinal a leave of absence so he can defend himself," the Vatican press statement said.
In 2014, Pope Francis appointed Pell as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, a powerful post in the Vatican.
"His nomination...was a slap in the face to Australian victims first, and then to those in the (Catholic) Church who combat pedophilia," said Collins, who was sexually abused by Catholic priests as a child in the 1960s, according to her foundation's website.
Collins of Ireland resigned in March this year from a commission Pope Francis established to advise him on the issue of clerical child abuse, citing frustration with the lack of cooperation from the Vatican.
"Pell should not have gone into hiding (in the Vatican)," Collins told La Repubblica, adding that the fact Pell has been placed on leave "while positive, comes too late."
But Cardinal George Pell, Australia's top-ranking Catholic, on Friday maintained his innocence after he was charged with "historic" sex offences by Australian police.
"I am innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me," Pell told reporters in Rome shortly before returning to Australia.
Pell, 76, was on Thursday formally charged with sex offences dating back to his time as a priest in Ballarat, 105 km west of Melbourne, in the 1980s.
Pell, who is now based in the Vatican, is the third highest-ranked Catholic in the world and the most senior figure in the church to be charged over sexual abuse issues which have plagued the institution.