Australian abuse victims crowdfund trip to Vatican for child sex inquiry

Cardinal George Pell during a press conference in Sydney in 2012.
Cardinal George Pell during a press conference in Sydney in 2012.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian victims of child sex abuse have raised over US$85,000 (S$119,182) through crowdfunding to travel to Rome to watch the Vatican's Australian-born finance controller give videolink evidence to a local inquiry.

Catholic Cardinal George Pell, a man once seen as a contender to become pope, had been scheduled to testify at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the Australian city of Ballarat.

But earlier this month he was excused from attending in person after his lawyers cited health concerns, angering victims.

An online crowdfunding campaign to send 15 church abuse survivors, representatives and their supporters to Rome to watch Cardinal Pell give his videolink evidence has raised more than A$120,000 (S$120,144) since Monday.

The fund-raising efforts were helped along by Australian comedic musician Tim Minchin who released a satirical song attacking the Cardinal's decision not to return for the inquiry.

The inquiry heard testimony last year that priests suspected of abuse in Cardinal Pell's former diocese were moved between parishes and put in church-appointed rehabilitation instead of being reported to the police.

"The survivors of Ballarat and District child abuse feel that a face-to-face hearing is important for healing and understanding," said the group's crowdfunding page.

"With the news that Cardinal Pell could not come here, it seems appropriate to get the survivors to Rome to sit in front of Pell as he gives evidence."

A royal commission spokesman said in an e-mail that the commission was making inquiries about a possible venue for the victims in Rome.