Survivors welcome more conciliatory Pell

0:00

Abuse survivors say Cardinal George Pell's third time giving evidence to the child abuse royal commission appears more conciliatory and constructive.

Child abuse survivors are relieved Cardinal George Pell has struck a more conciliatory and constructive tone in his royal commission evidence, but say there's still a long way to go.

Making his third appearance before the child sexual abuse royal commission, Cardinal Pell appeared in Rome by videolink after he was deemed too ill to return to Australia for questioning about pedophile priest activity in Ballarat and Melbourne when he served there.

Survivors who travelled to Rome to see the Vatican's finance chief give evidence listened quietly through three-and-a-half hours of testimony under chandeliers at Rome's elegant Quirinale Hotel late on Sunday night and early into Monday morning.

Cardinal Pell, who arrived through a side entrance to avoid waiting media, admitted the church had made "enormous mistakes" in terms of handling child sex abuse by priests and said he was not there to "defend the indefensible".

Compared to Cardinal Pell's previous appearances before the commission, survivor David Ridsdale said "we would have to acknowledge it's a more conciliatory tone".

Before the hearing many in the group said they expected the cardinal to continue to put the church before child abuse victims and to display a selective memory.

"We would have to acknowledge there were some statements said that were certainly more constructive than previously," Mr Ridsdale said.

"But saying that, there was a very careful selection of words.

"Issues like 'kissing boys as being eccentric' strikes us as more than eccentric, creepy at the very least."

Mr Ridsdale said some of the people Cardinal Pell said he didn't know didn't fit with the memories of abuse survivors from Ballarat.

"It's a give and take process and we've got a long way to go."

Mr Ridsdale said words were all very well but actions were needed from the church to put in place support mechanisms for survivors.

Watching proceedings in Sydney, members of support group Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) were disappointed the cardinal was evasive and avoided answering some important questions.

"He's a brilliant man and can remember a lot about his academic life, but he avoided answering anything specific," Trish Carter said.

John Hennessy, 79, said his hopes were dashed when the cardinal began giving "evasive" responses.

"What's troubled me throughout the commission is the witnesses and perpetrators seem to have memory loss, yet the victims have vivid memories," he told AAP.

Before giving evidence, Cardinal Pell had tied a yellow ribbon at the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican to show support for abuse victims in line with the Loud Fence campaign that has spread worldwide from Ballarat.

Anthony and Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were abused by a priest in Melbourne, believe the pressure of the commission's questioning, the scrutiny of survivors in the room and worldwide media interest may force Cardinal Pell to concede the church has been more at fault than he has cared to admit.

"That's why we wanted to be in the room," Mr Foster said.

Cardinal Pell has another two or three days of testimony.

Source AAP, SBS Staff

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch