Australian abuse inquiry says will sit in Rome to hear Vatican treasurer

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 22, 2016 3:04 AM

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian government inquiry into child abuse said on Monday that it has found a hearing room in Rome where victims may be able to watch the Vatican's Australian-born treasurer testify about his knowledge of molestation within the church.

Cardinal George Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne, is the star witness in the long-running inquiry but angered victims last year when he delayed traveling from the Vatican to Australia to testify because of heart problems.

This month, the inquiry allowed Pell to stay in Rome and testify via videolink, prompting a local radio station to help 10 victims and five supporters raise A$204,000 to travel to Rome to watch the cardinal testify in person.

Pell, 74, is expected to be asked about his knowledge of measures taken by the Roman Catholic Church to handle child abuse complaints in the country town of Ballarat, where he was born and served as a priest from 1973 to 1983.

The cardinal has meanwhile called for an investigation into a suspected leak by Victoria state police after the Herald Sun newspaper reported that police were investigating abuse complaints concerning Pell himself. Pell emphatically denied those allegations.

On Monday, the judge presiding over the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, Peter McClellan, told a hearing he considered the victims' request to watch Pell testify in person "reasonable".

"With the assistance of the Australian Embassy in Rome, we have located a room in a hotel in Central Rome which, I am advised, has the technical facilities to ensure an effective signal to Australia," McClellan said.

He added that inquiry officials would test whether Pell would be able to testify via videolink to Australia and would reveal the outcome on Tuesday.

If the room turns out not be suitable, "an alternative venue will be found in Rome and appropriate arrangements will be made".

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Nick Macfie)