Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has visited disgraced Cardinal George Pell in a Melbourne jail, where he is being held on child sex convictions.
Mr Abbott is well-known for his praise of the 78-year-old senior Catholic and previously admitted to calling his long-time friend after he was found guilty of child sex attacks.
Tonight, Seven News reported the pair was reunited during a prison visit by Mr Abbott.
“Look, I was simply visiting a friend,” he told a waiting reporter. “That’s all.”
Mr Abbott declined to answer other questions as he got into a taxi.
In December last year, Pell was found guilty of five convictions for molesting two choirboys in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral 22 years ago.
He was sentenced to six year’s behind bars but has since had his bid to appeal the conviction granted by the High Court of Australia.
Mr Abbott has been a longtime supporter of Pell and has previously been questioned over his stance on the conviction.
In a radio interview with 2GB journalist Ben Fordham in February, the former PM reluctantly revealed he had phoned Pell the day after his guilty verdict was made public.
“It was a call I put into him, yes I spoke to him,” Mr Abbott admitted.
When he was asked if he would reconsider his longstanding support of Pell post his conviction, Mr Abbott maintained they should see what the appeal court finds.
“Well he’s been found guilty by a court of a horrible crime, an absolutely horrible crime,” he said.
“Let’s see what the appeal court finds. It’s a shocking and devastating result.”
Ray Hadley also grilled Mr Abbott over the call, with the 2GB host asking whether Mr Abbott had been asked to provide a character reference for Pell.
“I honestly don’t know whether I was asked to provide a reference or not. I have no recall of being asked to provide a reference,” Mr Abbott said.
“When it comes to the phone call, look, I’m not a fair weather friend. This was someone who was obviously going through a very, very bad experience. Now I’m not saying that he’s the only one going through bad experiences, but he has been a friend of mine for a long time, and at a time like this you’ve got to feel for people.
“You’ve got to feel for the victims, who’ve been dreadfully betrayed by an institution they should have been able to trust. You’ve got to feel for the people who are dismayed by this verdict against someone they’d put up on a pedestal.”
Mr Abbott acknowledged the jury had unanimously delivered a “damning verdict” against his friend, and he “absolutely accepted” that the courts were “the best means we have of coming to the truth”.
Pell is the most senior Catholic official to be found guilty of child sex abuse crimes.