A cup of tea with the cardinal: what George Pell did in the Ellis case

The Guardian (UK)

David Marr
theguardian.com, Friday 28 March 2014

St Mary’s was not overflowing at Cardinal George Pell’s farewell. The music was magnificent and 20 bishops followed the candles and banners in procession. But the governor general, prime minister and premier were somewhere else for the night. Rows of stack-away chairs stood empty.

Pell looked weary but cheerful. Less than four hours before appearing in cope and mitre under the arc lights of the cathedral, he had been in the witness box of the royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse delivering one last apology to John Ellis. Some of the time since had been spent praying at the shrine of St Mary MacKillop.

Officials last seen in the witness box gave readings and led prayers. Not among the familiar faces at the celebrations was Ellis, once a devout Catholic who came three times a week to mass is in this building. That life is behind him now.

Though they have faced each other at the commission over the past week, they’ve met only once. In a sense, the meeting was routine. It’s what victims of priests are offered when their battles with the church are done, every last detail settled, money paid and apologies made. As Pell’s chancellor Brian Rayner explained to the commission: “I would offer the person a discussion with the cardinal, a cup of tea, where he would then personally continue that apology.”

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