Vatican Praises George Pell's Testimony at Royal Commission
By Goya Dmytryshchak
March 5, 2016
|Cardinal George Pell reads a statement after meeting with abuse survivors in Rome this week. Photo: Getty Images|
The Vatican has issued a statement praising Cardinal George Pell for his testimony at the royal commission and rejecting claims the Catholic Church had done nothing, or very little, to respond to child sex abuse.
The statement comes after Australian child sex abuse survivors who flew to Rome to watch Cardinal Pell give evidence, said they were unimpressed he told the inquiry he had no knowledge of offending by paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale in Ballarat in the 1970s and 1980s.
It also comes as survivors were informed on Friday that their request to meet Pope Francis was never received.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi? said Cardinal Pell's appearance at the live inquiry and the presentation of a Best Picture Oscar to Spotlight – a film about The Boston Globe's investigation into Catholic Church sex abuse cover up there – had brought a new wave of attention from the media and public to the issue of child sex abuse by clergy.
"The sensationalist presentation of these two events has ensured that, for a significant part of the public, especially those who are least informed or have a short memory, it is thought that the Church has done nothing, or very little, to respond to these terrible problems, and that it is necessary to start anew," Father Lombardi wrote.
"Objective consideration shows that this is not the case."
He said following the events that were the subject of the Spotlight film, the previous archbishop of Boston resigned in 2002 and was replaced by Cardinal Sean O'Malley, an adviser to the Pope and president of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, established in 2013.
He said Pope Benedict XVI had met with a small group of survivors in Sydney in 2008 at the seat of the archdiocese governed by Cardinal Pell, and the Vatican's website had more than 60 documents and interventions dedicated to 'Abuse of minors: the Church's response'.
He said the Popes had shown courageous commitment to facing crises that subsequently emerged in countries including the United States, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Holland.
"The encounters held by Benedict XVI and Francis with groups of victims have accompanied this by now long road with the example of listening, the request for forgiveness, consolation and the direct involvement of the Popes," Father Lombardi said.
"From this perspective, the events in Rome of the last few days may be interpreted in a positive light.
"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.
"This is certainly useful with a view to a common 'purification of memory'.
"Recognition is also due to many members of the group of victims who came from Australia for demonstrating their willingness to establish constructive dialogue with Cardinal Pell and with the representative of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, Father Hans Zollner? SJ, of the Pontifical Gregorian University, with whom they further developed prospects for effective commitment to the prevention of abuse."
Father Lombardi said it was necessary to face the problem of how to respond not only to the child sex abuse in the Church but also in broader society.
He said that "in Asia, for instance, tens of millions of minors are abused, certainly not in a Catholic context".
"In summary, the Church, wounded and humiliated by the wound of abuse, intends to react not only to heal herself, but also to make her difficult experience in this field available to others, to enrich her educational and pastoral service to society as a whole, which generally still has a long path to take to realise the seriousness of these problems and to deal with them," Father Lombardi said.