Cardinal Pell's Landmark Meeting with Ballarat Survivors

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
4 Mar 2016

Video sourced from Catholic News Service

Following 20 hours of giving evidence to the Royal Commission in Rome via video link over the past four days, Cardinal Pell had a land mark meeting with about a dozen survivors who travelled to Rome to hear the evidence.

The survivors of sexual abuse had sought the possibility of a meeting with the Cardinal following the conclusion of the hearings, and the Cardinal was very keen to meet with them, especially as the majority had travelled from Ballarat, the Cardinal's home town.

The survivors told the Cardinal of their individual stories, the terrible crimes that had been committed and how they had been battling to come to terms with their abuse for many years. They spoke of how many of their friends could not do so and had taken their lives.

The Cardinal was eager to assist them in whatever way he could and said he would support the establishment of a healing and counselling  centre in Ballarat for victims of abuse.

Just hours after the meeting, the Cardinal had already been in contact with organisations and professional support groups who may be able to assist with this new endeavour.

The Cardinal was clearly moved and emotional following the meeting.

He spent some time talking in particular with David Ridsdale about his experience and as a group they decided it would be good for the Cardinal to issue a statement about the meeting. Consequently Cardinal Pell wrote a two page statement which he read to a large gathering of Australian and international media.

The Cardinal also arranged for representatives of the group to meet with a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors which was also very positive and resulted in a second meeting to talk about how further counselling and education about sexual abuse and its prevention can be taken forward in the broader church and community.

The group was hopeful of meeting with Pope Francis, however no meeting had been scheduled before they were due to leave this weekend. While Cardinal Pell had facilitated a meeting with the Commission representatives and tried to assist in organising a meeting with the Holy Father, it was a matter of scheduling for the Papal Household.

Cardinal Pell was grateful and pleased to have had this opportunity to spend time with the survivors and has committed himself to stay in touch with them.

The survivors have referred to Cardinal Pell as "Ballarat alumni" and have asked for his support in helping the people of Ballarat to understand the damage done by sexual abuse and identify paths to healing.

Read the full statement from Cardinal Pell here:

I have just met with about a dozen of the Ballarat survivors, support people and officials and heard each of their stories and of their suffering. It was hard; an honest and occasionally emotional meeting.

I am committed to working with these people from Ballarat and surrounding areas. I know many of their families and I know of the goodness of so many people in Catholic Ballarat; a goodness which is not extinguished by the evil that was done.

We all want to try to make things better on the ground, especially for survivors and their families and I undertake to continue to help the group work effectively with the committees and agencies we have in Rome and especially the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

One suicide is too many; and there have been many such tragic suicides. I commit myself to work with the group to try to stop this, so that suicide is not seen as an option. I too, despite the separation of distance, want to make Ballarat a model and a better place for healing and peace.

I should not promise what might be impossible. We all know how hard it is to get things done. But I want it known that I support the work to investigate the feasibility of a research centre to enhance healing and improve protection.

The church-going people of the Ballarat diocese are known for their loyalty and charity and I urge them to continue to cooperate with the survivors to improve the situation.

I owe a lot to the people and community of Ballarat. It would be marvellous if the city became well known as an effective centre and example of practical help for all those wounded by the scourge of sexual abuse.


Cardinal George Pell
Hotel Quirinale - Rome
3 March 2016