CANBERRA, Australia — One of Pope Francis’ top advisers told an Australian inquiry into child sex abuse Tuesday that an Australian bishop had deceived him about the reason a pedophile priest was repeatedly transferred from parish to parish.

Australian Cardinal George Pell was a priest in the town of Ballarat in the 1970s who advised Bishop Ronald Mulkearns about the placement of priests within the diocese.

Pell, now the pope’s top financial adviser, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that while Mulkearns and another priest at the regular committee meetings, Monsignor Leo Fiscalini, both knew about serious sexual assault allegations against notorious pedophile Gerald Ridsdale, neither mentioned them.

“It probably would be possible to imagine a greater deception, but it’s a gross deception,” Pell told the Sydney inquiry via videolink from a Rome hotel.

It was the second day of evidence for the 74-year-old cleric, who because of ill health could not travel to Australia to give evidence in person at the inquiry into decades of child abuse.

Two dozen Australian abuse survivors and their companions traveled across the globe to witness Pell’s testimony in a hotel conference room, a significant show of accountability in the church’s long-running abuse saga.

Pell said he suspected Mulkearns concealed the allegations against Ridsdale because the bishop didn’t want to share culpability with Pell for allowing Ridsdale to continue abusing children.

“He might have wanted to protect us from his wrongdoing,” Pell said. “He might have feared that, if he told us the truth, that people like myself would have said: ‘Well, look, is that correct? I am not sure we should be going in that direction at all.”‘

Pell said he could not recall if he had asked the bishop why Risdale was transferred with “somewhat unusual” frequency.

“Obviously there were a series of difficulties, but it certainly was not stated that those difficulties touched on pedophilia and crimes,” Pell said.

Pell said priests didn’t discuss with him the allegations against Ridsdale, even though they were common knowledge in the towns of Apollo Bay and Inglewood where Ridsdale had been the parish priest.

Pell’s testimony was interrupted by jeers from the public gallery as he explained the moral framework in which priests live.