Australian child abuse survivors attending Cardinal George Pell’s testimony in Rome say they “danced as if they won the Oscar” when the movie Spotlight, which is about exposing clergy sex abuse, won best film at the Academy Awards.
The survivors group arrived at the Quirinale Hotel on Monday night for the second session of the cardinal’s evidence by videolink to the child abuse royal commission sitting in Sydney.
He is being grilled about what he knew of pedophile priests and their offending in the Ballarat diocese and in Melbourne in the 1970s and 1980s.
Survivors’ group spokesman David Ridsdale told journalists on the way into the Quirinale that Spotlight’s win at the Oscars was a reminder that institutional child sex abuse was a global issue.
“We danced as if we’d won the Oscar and there were a lot of tears. The timing couldn’t have been better, it’s given a lot of hope,” Mr Ridsdale said.
Spotlight is based on the true story of how journalists at The Boston Globe exposed a sexual abuse cover-up by the Catholic Church.
Mr Ridsdale said Cardinal Pell in his evidence had tried to suggest that the Vatican structure and the international church was solid and sound and the problem of child sex abuse was at the grassroots level.
“I think we need to start challenging that.”
Mr Ridsdale said cardinals and bishops around the world would follow the directives of the Vatican.
Abuse survivor Phil Nagle told reporters that Cardinal Pell was being “very selective” about some of his answers to the commission.
“We hope to hear some more truth and honesty tonight.”
Cardinal Pell arrived earlier amid tight security, including a Carbinieri officer carrying a sub-machine gun out the front of the hotel.
When asked about a meeting he had with Pope Francis earlier in the day the cardinal said: “I have the full backing of the Pope.”
Mr Nagle said he hoped the pair talked about the Australian survivors’ group in Rome “and about the crimes that were committed back in the days when George (Pell) was back in Ballarat and when he was in Australia”.
Mr Ridsdale said group members had been offered a time to talk to Cardinal Pell but unacceptable restrictions had been imposed, stopping the group as a whole meeting with him.
“They want to separate us with no support and that’s not something we’re prepared to do.”