Cardinal George Pell has welcomed the decision by the Royal Commission to hear his evidence by video link from Rome, and repeated that he was keen to respond to the issues raised in recent hearings, including allegations against him.
Speaking in Rome, Cardinal Pell, now Prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, said: “I have always expressed my willingness to assist the Royal Commission in its work. I have appeared on two previous occasions and many months ago made it clear I was willing to appear again.”
“While my plans were always to make the journey home to appear in person, my doctors have made it very clear that at the present time my health prevents me from undertaking long-haul travel.
“I wished things were different. However, I am pleased after receiving the latest medical reports last week, the Commission has now decided to agree to hear my evidence via video link from a professional conference facility in Rome.”
Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said he accepted medical evidence that the 74-year-old Cardinal would be at risk of heart failure if forced to fly to Australia to give evidence.
“Although people with the conditions that Cardinal Pell has may fly long distances, it is apparent from the medical report that in the case of Cardinal Pell there is a risk to his health if he undertook such travel at the present time,” Justice McClellan said.
“Having regard to the nature of his ailments it could not be expected that his health is likely to improve and remove those risks.”
“Although it remains preferable that he gives evidence in Australia, when the alternative that he give evidence by video link is available the Commissioners are satisfied that course should be adopted.”
In announcing the decision, Justice McClellan said the Commission decided the Cardinal’s medical report would not be made public.
Cardinal Pell, former Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne, did not attend a hearing in Ballarat in December. His office in Rome issued a statement at the time saying his heart condition had worsened, making it unsafe for him to travel.
Justice McClellan previously denied a request for Cardinal Pell to give his testimony via video link.
The Commission has also decided that Bishop Mulkearns should give evidence.
The Bishop, who was in charge of the Ballarat diocese from 1971 to 1997, has bowel cancer and is receiving palliative care.
He will give evidence by video link from the aged care facility where he lives or the court house at Ballarat where hearings will be held later this month.
STATEMENT BY CARDINAL PELL