Hearing to decide George Pell fate

Solidarity: Damascus College deputy principal Sister Marie Davey, principal Matthew Byrne and captains Chiara Angeli and Kaine Burgess.

Solidarity: Damascus College deputy principal Sister Marie Davey, principal Matthew Byrne and captains Chiara Angeli and Kaine Burgess.

A directions hearing to decide whether Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, is well enough to return for the third public hearing into Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat will be held on Friday.

Doubts remain over whether Cardinal Pell will return to Australia for the royal commission into institutional responses into child sexual abuse hearing beginning on February 22, after he failed to travel to the United States last week for a speaking engagement.

Cardinal Pell who is based in Rome previously cancelled a planned trip to Melbourne in December to give evidence to the commission due to a "worsening" heart condition. His testimony on how he responded to child abuse allegations as a priest in Ballarat and as the Archbishop of Melbourne was delayed until February this year.The fate of terminally ill former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkerans will also be decided at a hearing on Friday. Bishop Mulkearns is in palliative care and deemed unlikely to give evidence.  

As the fate of their testimonies loom, a groundswell of support for sexual abuse victims continues to grow. Schools across Victoria including Geelong Grammar have joined the Loud Fence campaign, a global movement where colourful ribbons are tied to fences to end the silence of child sexual abuse. 

Damascus College principal Matthew Bryne said the impetuous for the school starting their own Loud Fence came after Ballarat Catholic Diocese Vicar-general Justin Driscoll handed out ribbons to staff working at Catholic institutions across the city at a mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral last week.

Father Driscoll implored staff to join the campaign in solidarity with victims. Mr Byrne said the ripple effects of the abuse in the city were so far-reaching they spanned generations and it was critical students were given age appropriate information to understand the complexities of the issue.   

“Adolescents have incredible empathy for those in pain,” he said. “While they may not fully appreciate the depth of the pain, they do understand the concept of supporting anyone in need.”.