Top-ranking Vatican cardinal George Pell denied involvement in sex abuse cover-ups, as victims still deal with trauma.
Australian victims of child sex abuse by the Roman Catholic Church returned home disappointed on Sunday that they couldn’t meet Pope Francis – and angry with evidence given by a senior Vatican official to an inquiry.
The Vatican said it didn’t grant a meeting with the group of about 15 victims because they had not made their request through the proper channels while they were in Rome to observe Australian Cardinal George Pell testify.
“The simple fact is it’s the pope’s loss,” abuse survivor David Ridsdale told reporters at Melbourne airport regarding the lack of a meeting, according to the Australian Associated Press.
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“He missed out. It’s not our loss.”
Ridsdale was abused as a child by his uncle, Gerald Ridsdale, who was a priest.
He said the victims faxed their request to the Prefecture of the Papal Household on the advice of Pell’s staff.
They had travelled to Rome to observe Pell give evidence via a video link after a heart condition stopped the cardinal from travelling to Australia.
Pell was specifically asked about his knowledge of paedophile priests active in the city of Ballarat and surrounding regions. That included Ridsdale, who was convicted of 138 offences against more than 50 children in Australia.
Pell, 74, who is now the Vatican’s treasurer, became the highest-ranking Vatican official to give testimony on the issue of systemic abuse within the church.
His evidence to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse on cases involving hundreds of children from the 1960s to the ’90s has taken on wider implications about the accountability of church leaders.
While victims’ groups have rejected Pell’s responses as inadequate, Vatican chief spokesman Federico Lombardi released a statement supporting the cardinal.
“Cardinal Pell must be accorded the appropriate acknowledgement for his dignified and coherent personal testimony – 20 hours of dialogue with the Royal Commission – from which, yet again, there emerges an objective and lucid picture of the errors committed in many ecclesial environments, this time in Australia, during the past decades,” Lombardi said.
Pell told the inquiry the church had made “enormous mistakes” and “catastrophic” choices by refusing to believe abused children, shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish, and over-relying on the counselling of priests to solve the problem.
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