George Cardinal Pell in Sydney in 2014. Photograph: Jane Dempster/AAP
Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior cleric, has told the chair of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse that he is prepared to give evidence in person.
“I want to make it absolutely clear that I am willing to give evidence should the commission request this, be it by statement, appearance by video link, or by attending personally,” the Vatican offical said in the letter to Justice Peter McClellan on Tuesday night.
He said he had been horrified by the allegations of abuse in Ballarat and was saddened by the way church authorities had dealt with reports of them.
Abuse victims have given evidence that Pell bribed them to keep quiet, ignored complaints and was complicit in moving paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale to a different parish. They have called on him to return to Australia to face the royal commission.
In the letter, Pell says he has not yet been asked to give evidence in any form. “But as I have said repeatedly, I am deeply committed to assisting the royal commission and to doing anything I can to help survivors,” he said.
“This includes giving evidence in person, if asked to do so”.