Clergy abuse survivors are pushing to fly to Rome to front Australia’s most senior Catholic in person when he gives evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse this month.
On Monday morning survivors released a public statement outlining a request to the inquiry to allow them to travel overseas to face Cardinal George Pell. They also pushed for his evidence to be given outside of the walls of the Vatican.
Earlier this month, Cardinal Pell 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. He is scheduled to give evidence on February 29.
Speaking on behalf of survivors, David Ridsdale, victim and nephew of disgraced priest Gerald Ridsdale said the conditions of his evidence must replicate an Australian court setting.
“(Evidence) should be given in the Australian embassy or somewhere with broadcast quality connection to ensure there are no technical difficulties,” he said. “As the commission hearings are open to the public we request the ability for interested parties to travel to Rome and attend the evidence in person.”
He said had Cardinal Pell agreed to attend the inquiry in person it may have healed rifts within the city.
“The child abuse scandal has impacted all of Ballarat and there was an expectation that the Cardinal's personal appearance may have facilitated healing in the city,” he said. “It was also an opportunity to provide direct responses to the survivors of the crimes committed under the auspices of the Catholic Church.”
He said it was now paramount Ballarat representatives or survivors were allowed to attend the hearing in Italy on behalf of the city.
“We have admired and adhered to the Australian Court System in providing information and evidence to the Royal Commission,” Mr Ridsdale said. “We would like to see a continuation of this process in all aspects of the commission process.”
Donations for flights for survivors have already being publicly pledged by celebrity media personalities Gorgi Coghlan and Mishel Laurie.