Cardinal George Pell is still too ill to travel from Rome to give evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the inquiry has heard.
- Flight from Rome to appear at child sex abuse inquiry a risk to Cardinal Pell’s health, lawyers say
- Application to appear via video link to Ballarat hearing angered victims
- Commission chair will announce decision on Monday
His lawyers applied for the 74-year-old to be able to give evidence by audio visual link at hearings of the inquiry dealing with abuse in Ballarat.
Several victims of abuse had stated their opposition to the request.
A two-page medical report was handed up to support the application that a flight to Australia from Rome, where Cardinal Pell oversees the Vatican’s finances, could pose a serious risk to his health.
Allan Myers QC said Cardinal Pell was keen to give evidence to the inquiry.
“The Cardinal’s view is that it’s very important that he give his evidence as soon as may be, while the evidence of others is fresh, and he certainly wants to avoid the appearance that he’s unwilling to give evidence,” Mr Myers told the inquiry.
Access to Cardinal Pell’s medical report was provided at the hearing on the undertaking its details were not publicised.
Mr Myers argued no good would come from the details of Cardinal Pell’s medical report being divulged.
“All it will do is provoke some sort of a debate in the press about the medical condition of Cardinal Pell and there’s no public interest in that,” he said.
But victims of church abuse in the Victorian city of Ballarat argued that they should be made public.
Paul O’Dwyer SC, who appeared for one of the victims of abuse, told the inquiry there should transparency surrounding the reasons why Cardinal Pell could not appear in person.
“They are very common garden problems for a man of the Cardinal’s age; There is nothing in this that in our respectful submission requires a suppression order,” he said.
Cardinal Pell, a former Catholic archbishop in Sydney and Melbourne, failed to attend a hearing in Ballarat in December, angering victims.
Cardinal Pell’s office in Rome issued a statement at the time saying his heart condition had worsened, making it unsafe for him to travel.
Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan previously denied a request for Cardinal Pell to give his testimony via video link.
The commission has heard from child abuse victim David Ridsdale that Cardinal Pell tried to bribe him to keep quiet.
It was also alleged that Cardinal Pell was involved in a decision to move Mr Ridsdale’s abuser, his uncle Father Gerald Ridsdale, between parishes once the abuse came to light.
Cardinal Pell, who is Australia’s most senior Catholic, strongly denied the allegations.
The commission is due to sit in Ballarat later this month.
Justice McClellan will announce on Monday whether Cardinal Pell’s application to give evidence from Rome will be allowed.