Royal Commission: Cardinal George Pell Holds "Hard and Honest" Meeting with Sex Abuse Survivors
By Nick Miller and Melissa Cunningham
Sydney Morning Herald
March 4, 2016
Cardinal George Pell has pledged to help those "wounded by the scourge of sexual abuse", in the final act of his appearance at the child sex abuse Royal Commission.
"One suicide is too many, and there have been many such tragic suicides," the cardinal said on the doorstep of the Rome hotel where over four nights he was grilled about what he knew of paedophile priests in Melbourne and Ballarat in the 1970s and 1980s.
|Cardinal George Pell leaves the Quirinale hotel in Rome after meeting with sex abuse survivors.|
"I commit myself to working … to try to stop this so that suicide is not seen as an option for those who are suffering," the cardinal said.
The statement, handwritten on hotel notepaper, was the product of an hour-long meeting he held with a group of survivors who had travelled to Rome to watch the cardinal give video evidence to the Commission.
Cardinal Pell said he had heard each of their stories and of their suffering.
|Cardinal George Pell's handwritten statement. Photo: Nick Miller|
"It was a hard and honest and occasionally emotional meeting," he said.
"We all want try to make things better actually and on the ground, especially for the survivors and their families."
He promised to help the group work with agencies in Rome set up to protect minors in the church, and to work with them to investigate the feasibility of a research centre in Ballarat to make the city "an effective centre for the example of practical help for all those wounded by the scourge of sexual abuse."
|Anthony Foster shows reporters the photo of his two daughters, who were both abused by the same priest and one of them later committed suicide, after a meeting with Cardinal Pell. Photo: AP|
Ballarat clergy sexual abuse survivor David Ridsdale said victims were exhausted and overwhelmed with emotion following the meeting where they all shared their personal stories with the Cardinal.
"We've just had an extremely emotional meeting with Cardinal Pell," Mr Risdale said. "We met on a level playing field, we met as people of Ballarat."
Cardinal Pell's full statement:
I have just met with the Ballarat group of survivors, support people and officials.
I've heard each of their stories and of their suffering.
It was hard and honest and occasionally emotional meeting. I am committed to working with these people from Ballarat and surrounding areas. I know many of their families and I know of the goodness of so many people in Catholic Ballarat, a goodness which is not extinguished by the evil that was done.
We all want try to make things better actually and on the ground. Especially for the survivors and their families.
And I undertake to continue to help the group work effectively with the committees and agencies that we have here in the church in Rome, and especially the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
One suicide is too many. Too many . And there have been many such tragic suicides. I commit myself to working with the group that is trying to stop this, so that suicide is not seen as an option for those who are suffering.
I too, despite the separation of distance want to help make Ballarat a model and a better place for healing and for peace.
Now I shouldn't promise what might be impossible. We all know how hard it is to get things done. But I do want it known that I support the work to investigate the feasibility of a research centre to enhance healing and to improve protection.
The church-going people of the Ballarat diocese are known for their loyalty and for their charity and I urge them to continue to cooperate with the survivors to improve the situation.
I owe a lot to the people and community of Ballarat, I acknowledge that with deep gratitude. It would be marvellous if our city became well known as an effective centre for the example of practical help for all those wounded by the scourge of sexual abuse.