Cardinal George Pell has read out a formal apology to the victim of a paedophile priest but never once looked at the man, even though he was sitting metres away.
Dr Pell marked the end of his appearance before the royal commission into child sexual abuse with a public apology for the suffering endured by former alter boy John Ellis as a result of his treatment by the church.
Reading from a statement, Dr Pell said that, as the former archbishop of Sydney and speaking personally, the church had failed Mr Ellis and as archbishop he took ultimate responsibility for the suffering and the terrible impact on his life.
“At the end of this gruelling appearance for both of us at this royal commission, I want to publicly say sorry to him for the hurt caused him by the mistakes made,” Dr Pell said.
Dr Pell kept his eyes down while reading the statement and, after being excused, walked from the hearing room afterwards without looking at Mr Ellis, who has sat in the front row throughout the hearing.
Observers in the room became agitated during Dr Pell’s statement, with some people calling out “look at him”.
Mr Ellis was a 13-year-old altar boy in the Sydney parish of Bass Hill when paedophile priest Father Aidan Duggan began abusing him.
Dr Pell takes over as head of the Vatican’s finances in Rome on Monday.