Arrangements are underway to allow Ballarat clergy child sexual abuse survivors to fly to Rome to witness Cardinal George Pell give evidence next week. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chair Justice Peter McClellan said the requests of survivors to attend the Cardinal’s evidence in person on February 29 were “not unreasonable”.
The third round of hearings into sexual abuse that occurred within the Diocese of Ballarat began on Monday morning. Justice McClellan announced in the opening address Cardinal Pell looked set to give evidence via video link from a room inside a hotel in central Rome. He said the room was yet to be tested to ensure it would provide an effective signal back to Australia. Justice McClellan said the room would be tested late Monday and he would confirm on Tuesday whether it was suitable.
The inquiry is yet to confirm if the room would be open to the public. Earlier this month, the commission accepted a medical report which said Cardinal Pell, 74, was at risk of heart failure if he flew back to Australia to give evidence.
Clergy abuse survivor David Ridsdale said the group of survivors and representatives from Ballarat planned to fly out of Australia on Friday evening. He said Cardinal Pell was the highest ranking Catholic in Australia and had intricate knowledge of the movements of paedophile priests who were shifted from parish to parish.
Another survivor Paul Levey has already booked his flights.
“The survivors need to be in that room when Pell gives evidence so he is under the same conditions we were put under,” Mr Levey said. “He needs to be faced with the emotion of it all. He shouldn’t be able to just speak into a television screen surrounded by his lawyers.”