Catholic World News

Cardinal Pell concludes testimony, meets with abuse victims

March 03, 2016

Cardinal George Pell met privately with sex-abuse victims on March 3, after concluding four days of testimony by videolink before an Australian royal commission.

"It was hard: an honest and occasionally emotional meeting," the cardinal said after the encounter. A group of Australian sex-abuse victims had traveled to Rome to witness the cardinal's testimony, and he had invited them to meet with him privately after his final session.

"I think he gets it," one victim, Phil Nagle, said after meeting the cardinal. Other victims said that the discussions had been productive; they expressed appreciation for the opportunity to speak directly with the cardinal, and said that they hoped to have a chance to speak with Pope Francis as well. The victims' group was likely to remain in Rome for a few days, as the Pope's commission on sexual abuse was scheduled to hold its own meetings.

The restrained and respectful tone of the statements by Cardinal Pell and the abuse victims in Rome contrasted sharply with the angry media coverage in Australia, where the cardinal has been portrayed as a key figure in covering up clerical abuse. Through four days of aggressive questioning, Cardinal Pell had consistently denied participating in any cover-up. He had explained that he was not aware of the reasons why one notorious ex-priest, Gerald Ridsdale, had been transferred to new assignments, by another bishop. 

In another case, involving complaints of abuse by Christian Brothers, the cardinal acknowledged that he was aware of the complaint, but said that he thought the religious order had already taken steps to address the problem. In that instance, he said, in retrospect to could not "excuse my comparative lack of activity." 

"I hope that my appearance here has contributed a bit to healing, to improving the situation," the cardinal said after finishing his testimony. 

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