Cardinal George Pell has arrived at the Rome hotel where he will give testimony this morning to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in front of sexual abuse victims who have flown to the city.
Cardinal Pell arrived at the Hotel Quirinale via a side restaurant door three hours early. Reporters outside the hotel say the Cardinal's security team was heavy handed, pushing camera crews aside as he entered the hotel.
About 20 survivors and family members will be at the first of an expected four days of hearings, which will be broadcast to Australia via video link from the hotel.
Cardinal Pell, who is due to start giving evidence at 8am AEDT, was excused from having to travel to Australia after the commission accepted medical evidence that his health would be threatened by long-haul air travel.
On the eve of his testimony, Cardinal Pell made a gesture of support for victims by taking the Loud Fence movement into the heart of Vatican. The movement expresses support for victims of sexual abuse by tying colourful ribbons to fences,
In a quiet area of the Vatican Gardens at the Lourdes Grotto, Cardinal Pell tied a yellow ribbon as a show of support for the Loud Fence campaign. A statement from his office said Cardinal Pell went to the grotto with the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes the day before the hearing began to pray for all survivors of sexual abuse.
“I am aware of the Loud Fence movement and how it has grown rapidly. This is my gesture of support, especially for the people of Ballarat,” he said.
Cardinal Pell has been called to give evidence about two case studies — number 28 about the Diocese of Ballarat and number 35 about the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The time frame for the case studies stretches from the 1960s through to the 1990s.
Case Study 28 deals with the response of the Christian Brothers in Victoria to allegations of child sexual abuse involving six brothers — all of whom spent time working at schools in the Diocese of Ballarat.
Bishop Ronald Mulkearns had ultimate responsibility for the Diocese during much of the time being considered in Case Study 28. For part of the time he was a priest in Ballarat, Cardinal Pell was one of the consultors to Bishop Mulkearns.
Case study 35 deals with the response of the Archdiocese of Melbourne to complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse, including during Cardinal Pell's time as an Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne.
Photo: Cardinal Pell ties a ribbon in the Lourdes Grotto within the Vatican Gardens
Cardinal Pell joins loud fence movement (Newcastle Herald)
With victims in audience, Australian cardinal to testify on abuse (Reuters/Yahoo7)