ROME – [AAP]
Cardinal George Pell has arrived at a Rome hotel for his third night of testimony to the child sex abuse commission sitting in Sydney.
Plain-clothes state police officers kept journalists back as the cardinal walked the few steps to the hotel door, refusing to answer questions about the hearing.
He is being questioned about what he knew of pedophile priests operating in Ballarat and Melbourne when he served there in the 1970s and 1980s.
On Tuesday, he told the commission he did not know about repeated complaints against the now-imprisoned pedophile Father Gerald Ridsdale because former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns did not tell him.
The former senior Australian Catholic, now the third-most powerful man in the Vatican, shocked abuse survivors who are in Rome to watch him give evidence via video link, when he said on Tuesday Ridsdale’s offences were ‘a sad story’ but had not been of much interest to him when they were happening in the 1970s in regional Victoria.
‘I had no reason to turn my mind to the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated,’ the cardinal said from Hotel Quirinale, where he is giving his evidence.
The nephew of Gerald Ridsdale, David Ridsdale, who was abused by his uncle and is among those in Rome, said Cardinal Pell was ‘either culpable or an ignorant buffoon’.
‘I don’t believe he’s the latter and we have no evidence of the former so we have to wait for the commission to do its job,’ he said.
On Tuesday, Cardinal Pell was challenged outright that his claim to have known nothing of Ridsdale’s offences when so many others did was simply implausible.
He rejected the suggestion, saying it was only implausible if there was evidence he had been told about Ridsdale.
He blamed Bishop Mulkearns, saying his then-superior had known of the complaints about Ridsdale interfering with children but had not told him.
Commissioner Peter McClellan asked: ‘You say the bishop deceived you, is that right?’
Cardinal Pell replied: ‘Unfortunately, correct.’
He described Bishop Mulkearns’ failure to stop Ridsdale as ‘extraordinary and reprehensible’.
After Tuesday’s hearing, survivors in Rome to see Cardinal Pell give evidence visited a refuge for Catholic Australian pilgrims to tie ribbons in support of those who suffered abuse.
The survivors, who were sexually abused as children by pedophile priests in the Victorian diocese of Ballarat, tied coloured ribbons to a window of Domus Australia, a guest house and support centre for pilgrims set up with the cardinal’s backing.
The ribbon tying is part of the Loud Fence campaign started by three women in Ballarat to show support for survivors when they went to court to confront and testify against their abusers.
The cardinal will resume his evidence from the Hotel Quirinale in Rome on Wednesday at 0800 AEDT.