Cardinal George Pell Meets with Sex Abuse Survivors after Royal Commission Testimony
By Lisa Millar
March 3, 2016
|PHOTO: Cardinal George Pell gave evidence before the royal commission over four days. (ABC: Lisa Millar)|
The meeting came just hours after Cardinal Pell finished testifying before the royal commission, saying it was a "disastrous coincidence" that five paedophile priests had been sent to Ballarat during the 1970s, but adding that he hoped his testimony had "contributed a bit to healing, to improving the situation".
Reading from a handwritten statement after the meeting, the cardinal said he was committed to working with Ballarat abuse survivors to try to help those suffering.
"I heard each of their stories and of their suffering," Cardinal Pell said.
"It was hard. An honest and occasionally emotional meeting.
"I know many of their families and I know of the goodness of so many people in Catholic Ballarat, a goodness that is not extinguished by the evil that was done," he added.
Survivor David Ridsdale, the nephew of notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale, said the meeting was "extremely emotional".
"We met on a level playing field. We met as people from Ballarat," he said.
Fellow survivor Philip Nagle told the Vatican's finance chief it was vital to focus on suicide prevention for those who were suffering.
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VIDEO: George Pell meets with child abuse survivors in Rome (ABC News)
"I think he gets that bit. I think he thought I was going to talk about the past and bring up all that stuff. We just talked about the future," he said.
"We spoke about... what [Cardinal Pell] can do in his position and what the Catholic Church can do to help the survivors going forward."
On the fourth day of evidence, Cardinal Pell had told the commission he "wouldn't for a minute think" that paedophile priests had been deliberately assigned to the Ballarat diocese by the Christian Brothers.
The commission also heard evidence Cardinal Pell had received information from a student at Ballarat's St Patrick's College in the 1970s that one paedophile, Brother Edward Dowlan, was "misbehaving with boys".
Cardinal Pell said he had inquired with the school chaplain about the complaint but did not take it further.
"With the experience of 40 years later, certainly I would agree that I should have done more," Cardinal Pell said.
Speaking directly after the hearing ended, survivors said they doubted the truthfulness of Cardinal Pell's testimony, and said they were looking forward to the commission's findings.