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Abuse victims travel to Rome

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Clergy abuse victims are looking forward to being in the same room as Cardinal George Pell but may yet return from Rome unsatisfied by what he has to say.

Australia’s most senior Catholic will give videolink evidence from Rome to the child abuse royal commission next week.

Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said a request by some survivors to be there to witness the testimony was reasonable.

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“The commission considers that to be a reasonable request,” Justice McClellan said on Monday.

He noted, however, that the commission was sitting in Sydney and not Rome.

Anthony and Christine Foster, whose two daughters were abused by a Melbourne priest, have already booked their own flights.

Mr Foster was relieved Cardinal Pell would give his evidence in a public venue.

“It will give something like the same sort of conditions, the same sort of gravitas to his evidence as if he was here and I think that’s extremely important,” he told reporters outside a commission hearing in Ballarat.

But Mr Foster does not believe the group will leave Rome satisfied by the cardinal’s evidence about the Catholic Church’s handling of abuse in the Melbourne archdiocese and Ballarat diocese.

“It’s the huge lack of action by the church that’s so unsatisfying,” he said.

“We hear so many words time and time again. We won’t be satisfied until we see true justice for the victims.”

Ballarat victim Andrew Collins said it was important Cardinal Pell’s testimony was given under the same conditions as survivors – in a public forum rather than sitting in a room by himself.

“It’s also very important for our healing as well to be a part of that,” Mr Collins said.

The Australian embassy has helped locate a room in a Rome hotel which has the technical facilities to ensure an effective signal to Australia.

The facilities will be tested overnight and arrangements finalised on Tuesday.

A crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $200,000 to send the group of survivors and their support personnel to Rome, with about 15 people currently expected to make the trip.

David Ridsdale, a victim and nephew of Australia’s worst pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale, said Cardinal Pell’s evidence was important given his position as Australia’s highest ranking Catholic.

“He has had an integral part in all of these affairs, he has been around and involved so he has plenty to offer from that point of view,” Mr Ridsdale said.

The cardinal’s office has said he is anxious to present the facts without further delays, after he was unable to make the long-haul flight due to his heart condition.

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