Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has led the government on the Pacific island nation since 1998 and is one of its most prominent Catholics in public life.
Samoa, a Polynesian island of nearly 200,000 people near the U.S. territory of American Samoa, is highly dependent on trade with Australia.
In December, Pell was convicted of abusing two choir boys in the 1990s when he was Archbishop of Melbourne. He has strenuously denied the accusations and plans on appealing the conviction.
“It’s alleged the incident occurred when he was about 40 years old sometime ago, however to date there are records and witnesses are still around who were well aware of the malicious acts by this servant of God,” Malielegaoi said, according to the Samoa Observer.
“However, not long after his promotion in the church this came hunting him and these types of issues happen to other denominations. We all know what the devil seeks,” the Samoan leader said.
Malielegaoi is the politician that led efforts to have Samoa declared a Christian nation in its constitution. The largest denomination is the Congregationalist church, with Catholics making up 18 percent of the population.
“In this time and age, temptations are everywhere, hence the fall of this priest, who had since appealed the decision,” the prime minister said. “Yet in other people’s eyes, he is guilty. Nowadays once you are charged, you are guilty, even before you stand trial.”
Malielegaoi noted that the accusations against Pell stemmed from years ago, and suggested that the cardinal had changed over time.
“He’s maybe in his 70s and I reflect upon what Paul said that when I was young, I acted as a child and now I am old, I am mature. But then again, no matter what you say, the law will judge you accordingly,” he said.
“This is why I always appeal to the public to pray for our priests, they too are not angels. They are the anointed servants of God as the devil is always after them,” the prime minister said.