Support is growing for a group of clergy child sexual abuse survivors to fly to Rome to face Cardinal George Pell in person when he gives evidence to the child abuse royal commission this month.
Wendouree MP Sharon Knight has backed the idea and called for the Catholic Church to foot the bill for any travel costs incurred by victims.
Church officials have secured Allan Myers QC to represent Cardinal Pell ,74, and are believed to be paying him up to $100,000 a week. Ms Knight said if the church could afford such legal costs, it could afford to fly over survivors seeking answers from Australia’s most senior Catholic for abuse they endured at the hands of the church. She said the needs of survivors must be central to the entire process.
“If the Catholic Church can afford to cover George Pell’s legal bills at up to $20,000 a day then I believe they can afford to pay for a couple of airfares and accommodation for survivors,” Ms Knight said.
Cardinal Pell previously succeeded in a bid to remain in Rome after the inquiry accepted a doctor's report which said he was too sick to return to Australia to testify.The commission released a statement which said enquiries were being made about venues for Cardinal Pell to give evidence in Rome. He is scheduled to evidence on February 29 for three days. His evidence will cover the church's handling of child sex abuse by clergy during his time as priest in the Ballarat diocese in the 1970s and 80s. He will also be questioned about his time as the archbishop of Melbourne. He is now the Vatican’s third most senior official and has already appeared twice before the Royal Commission about other issues, including once via video link from Rome. The Ballarat and District Child Abuse Survivor group have requested Cardinal Pell’s evidence is given outside of the Vatican, in a setting which met the standards of an Australian courtroom.
A Go Fund Me page was set up to assist survivors with costs for flights and accommodation. Within hours it raised almost $5000. For details visit: gofundme.com/SendBallaratToRome