Controversial Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell has responded to criticism of his refusal to face a child abuse royal commission in person.
The commission recently granted Cardinal Pell’s request, via his lawyers, to give evidence from Rome by video link on health grounds, dismaying victim advocates.
“It is ultimately a matter for the Royal Commission to determine the precise arrangements for the provision of evidence by the Cardinal in Rome,” Cardinal Pell’s office said in a statement on Thursday.
Cardinal Pell also indicated he would be prepared to “meet with and listen to victims and express his ongoing support” after giving testimony in Rome.
The statement explained he had appeared twice before the royal commission and once before a Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry previously.
The Cardinal faces allegations he attempted to buy the silence of an abuse victim; dismissed a victim’s complaint; knew a priest was abusing boys again but did not act; moved an abusive priest around parishes rather than notifying authorities; and was complicit in failings of the Melbourne archdiocese to deal with sexual abuse in the church.
Earlier this week a crowdfunding campaign to get the sexual abuse victims group to Rome to witness the hearing was launched.
On the back of a charity single titled ‘Come Home’, by comedian Tim Minchin, the crowdfunding effort raised $169,785 as of Thursday morning (AEDT).
“I think that now that so many people, Australia and worldwide, have donated that we can create such huge publicity and awareness around the world,” said Stephen Woods, a member of the Ballarat and District Child Abuse Survivors group.
“We are absolutely blown away by the generosity.”
Between 1973 and 1984 Pell was a Ballarat East priest, Episcopal Vicar for Education in the Ballarat diocese and an adviser to the Ballarat bishop.
Pell presided over St Alipius primary school where four Christian Brothers were pedophiles. He and another priest lived in a presbytery with Australia’s worst pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale in 1973.
Pell was Melbourne auxiliary bishop (1987-1996), responsible for a region including Doveton which had a succession of pedophile priests, and then Melbourne archbishop (1996-2001).
– with AAP