Abuse victims can attend Pell testimony in Rome, inquiry says

Cardinal George Pell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cardinal Pell was appointed to oversee the Vatican's finances in the wake of scandals at the Vatican Bank

An inquiry into child sex abuse in Australia has cleared the way for victims to be present when Australia's most senior Catholic gives testimony.

Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's finance chief, will speak to the inquiry from Rome next week.

He has been excused from returning to Australia because of ill health, which has angered child abuse survivors.

The commissioner, Justice Peter McClellan, said it was "reasonable" for victims to watch Cardinal Pell speak.

The logistics of having Cardinal Pell testify in front of victims were previously in question, but Justice McClellan said a suitable hotel room had been found in central Rome.

'Look into their eyes'

A group of around 15 abuse survivors are reportedly expected to fly to Rome this weekend. The group launched a successful crowdfunding campaign that has raised more than A$200,000 ($143,000; £100,000) for the trip.

Survivor Andrew Collins told Fairfax it would be an "arduous journey", but said Cardinal Pell "should have to see people and look into their eyes".

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has focused much of its efforts on widespread child abuse by Catholic church clergy in Australia.

It is currently hearing testimony regarding child abuse that occurred in the city of Ballarat, including by notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.

Cardinal Pell was a priest in Ballarat and lived together with Ridsdale in the early 1970s.

He is not facing criminal charges, but detractors say child abuse that happened under his watch has made his Vatican position untenable.

Cardinal Pell has testified at the inquiry twice before in relation to other matters, once in person and once via video link.

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