The Vatican’s Australian finance controller was cleared today to testify at a child abuse inquiry in his homeland via videolink because of a heart condition, a ruling bound to frustrate victim groups who wanted him to appear in person. Cardinal George Pell, once seen as a contender to become pope, was scheduled to testify at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on December 16 but asked to give evidence by videolink instead.
The judge chairing the inquiry said he accepted a January 29 medical report saying the former archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne had hypertension and ishcemic heart disease complicated by a previous heart attack, and said he could testify remotely. “Although people with the conditions that Cardinal Pell has may fly long distances, it is apparent … that in the case of Cardinal Pell there is a risk to his heath if he undertook such travel at the present time,” the judge, Peter McClellan, told the inquiry.
“Having regard to the nature of his ailments, it could not be expected that his health is likely to improve and remove these risks,” McClellan said, effectively reversing his December statement that he wanted Pell to testify in person. McClellan said Pell must testify from Rome via videolink on February 29. The inquiry heard testimony last year that priests suspected of abuse in Pell’s former diocese were moved between parishes and put in church-appointed rehabilitation instead of being reported to police. Pell, 74, has denied those allegations.