Australia's Catholic Church has drawn fire from worldwide religious groups, after a high-ranking Catholic official publicly labeled Jews as intellectually and morally inferior, the Telegraph said.

During a widely televised debate with Richard Dawkins on ABC's Q&A, Cardinal George Pell barely concealed his disdain for the Jewish population, and dismissed them as shepherds who lacked intellectual means. The Cardinal, who is Sydney's archbishop, also termed them as intellectually lesser than the Egyptians and Persians, suggesting that the Jews were stuck between these great powers.

I've got a great admiration for the Jews but we don't need to exaggerate their contribution in their early days, the Cardinal said during the debate.

When asked about the Holocaust, Cardinal Pell made an astonishing remark, suggesting that the main victims were the Germans. He deemed the massacre as a terrible mystery as to why the Germans had suffered a terrible fate. Only when prompted by Dawkins did the Cardinal acknowledge that the Jews may have suffered far more.

As expected, the Cardinal's controversial statements caused a stir among members of the Jewish community, with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) calling his comments as deeply problematical from a Jewish perspective, the J-Wire said.

Following the uproar, Cardinal Pell had issued an apology for his remarks that might have hurt the Jewish community, the Telegraph said. He also clarified his argument, explaining that it might have been more fit to refer them as ''historically or culturally unequal rather than draw onto their intellect.

My commitment to friendship with the Jewish community, and my esteem for the Jewish faith is a matter of public record, and the last thing I would want to do is give offence to either, the Cardinal said in a statement on the report. This was certainly not my intention, and I am sorry that these points which I tried to make ... did not come out as I would have preferred in the course of the discussion.

ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim said that the council had accepted the Cardinal Pell's public apology and that they would continue to hold discussions with church officials regarding the matter.

We welcome as a first step Cardinal Pell's clarifying statement that he did not intend any offence, and his expression of continuing friendship with the Jewish community and esteem for the Jewish faith, Wertheim was quoted saying to the J-Wire.

The highly heated debate, which began as a discussion over the existence of God, seemed to have generated confusion on which of the two pugilists was declared winner, the Telegraph said.

Greg Sheridan of The Australian wrote, Dawkins was so obviously boxing above his weight division, was so completely outclassed in all aspects of the encounter, that you felt the event promoters were being cruel to him.

On the other hand, Tory Shepherd from Perth Now seemed to have leaned towards Dawkin's atheist views and said that, Pell was outwitted.