Australian cardinal promises victims to support healing, protection

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

(CNS) — Australian Cardinal George Pell promised to work with a group of abuse
survivors to help prevent suicide among victims and support healing and protection

suicide is too many. And there have been many such tragic suicides. I commit
myself to working with the group to try to stop this so that suicide is not
seen as an option for those who are suffering,” he said March 3 after
meeting in Rome with a group of survivors from his hometown of Ballarat.

closed-door meeting came after the survivors watched the cardinal give evidence
over four days to Australia’s Royal Commission about what he knew about the
actions of child abusers among clergy and about bishops reassigning them to
other parishes during his tenure in Australia. A number of survivors and
supporters had come to Rome thanks to a crowd-funding campaign in order to
witness in person the cardinal’s testimony, which was delivered over a live
video link-up with the commission in Australia.

cardinal, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, had admitted
during the hearings that church leadership “has made enormous
mistakes” in confronting suspected and known abuse against minors.
Hundreds of child abuse claims or complaints have been made against clergy in
the Archdiocese of Melbourne and the Diocese of Ballarat, the cardinal’s
hometown and the diocese for which he was ordained in 1966.

would be marvelous if our city had become well-known as an effective center and
the example of practical help for all those wounded by the scourge of sexual
abuse,” he read from his written statement while standing outside the
Hotel Quirinale, where the meeting and his previous testimony took place.

said that during his meeting with survivors, he heard “their stories and
of their sufferings. It was hard; an honest and occasionally emotional

said he was “committed to working with these people from Ballarat and
surrounding areas” and was willing “to help make Ballarat a model and
a better place of healing, for healing, and for peace.”

promised to continue to help the group work with church agencies in Rome and at
the Vatican, especially the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
He helped arrange for some of the victims to meet with the commission earlier
that same day.

also said he supported plans to look into the possibility of creating “a
research center to enhance healing and to improve protection.”

the cardinal had said he was hoping to facilitate a possible meeting between
Pope Francis and the survivors, who were set to fly back to Australia March 4.

the meeting with Cardinal Pell, one survivor from Ballarat, Phil Nagle, told
the Catholic Herald that they “talked about the future not the past. … I
think he gets it.”

said they discussed the importance of counseling and care for survivors and how
the church “from (Cardinal) George’s level down” would help with

Ridsdale, whose uncle — a former priest — abused him and others, told
reporters March 2 that people should “never underestimate broken
people.” Gerald Ridsdale, who is now in prison, had lived in the same
house with the cardinal for a few years in the 1970s.

their presence in Rome and long years of advocacy work, “I hope we’ve
shown everyone that when you face the truth with dignity you really can achieve
so much,” David Ridsdale said.

think what we’ve been through over the years, all of us, to have pulled
together, to pull this off, is a testament: don’t ever underestimate broken
people,” he said.

people notice someone who seems to be in need or hurting, “stop the
judging. Pick them up like we picked each other up because that is how humanity
is going to go forward. Not this hiding, not this power struggle, not this
power imbalance,” he said.

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