After concluding four days of giving evidence before the Royal Commission, Cardinal George Pell met with abuse survivors.
Cardinal Pell, who said he is committed to alleviating the suffering of those who suffered abuse, met with survivors for an hour in Rome.
During the meeting he used hotel stationary to write a statement, in which he described the meeting as “hard and honest and occasionally emotional”.
One survivor, Philip Nagle, told Cardinal Pell the focus is now on preventing further suicides as a result of the past.
Indeed, this is significant, given suicide rates in Ballarat – where Cardinal Pell and infamous paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale both operated – are endemic. Pedestrian cites the tragic statistic that is St Alipius Primary School’s 1974 grade four class, from which a third of the boys are dead, believed to be from suicide.
Pell’s statement reads as follows:
“I have just met with the Ballarat group of survivors, support people and officials.
“I’ve heard each of their stories and of their suffering.
“It was a hard and 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 try to make things better actually and on the ground. Especially for the survivors and their families.
“And I undertake to continue to help the group work effectively with the committees and agencies that we have here in the church in Rome, and especially the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
“One suicide is too many. Too many. And there have been many such tragic suicides. I commit myself to working with the group that is trying to stop this, so that suicide is not seen as an option for those who are suffering.
“I too, despite the separation of distance want to help make Ballarat a model and a better place for healing and for peace.
“Now I shouldn’t promise what might be impossible. We all know how hard it is to get things done. But I do want it known that I support the work to investigate the feasibility of a research centre to enhance healing and to improve protection.
“The church-going people of the Ballarat diocese are known for their loyalty and for their 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, I acknowledge that with deep gratitude. It would be marvellous if our city became well known as an effective centre for the example of practical help for all those wounded by the scourge of sexual abuse.”
David Ridsdale, a victim of sexual abuse and nephew of disgraced priest Gerald, said of the meeting: “It was emotional but we did get what we wanted in terms of an honest dialogue. There were no formalities and to be honest it was extremely personal in terms of what everyone was allowed to say and responded to”.
Image via The ABC – Lisa Millar.