Australian victims of child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church returned to Australia on Sunday disappointed and angry because they could not meet with the Pope.
The Vatican said it did not grant a meeting to the group of nearly 15 sex abuse victims because they had not properly followed the official process. The victims were in Rome to observe Cardinal George Pell testify.
Pell, who is the Vatican's treasurer now, has became the highest ranking Vatican official to witness sex abuse within the church. Evidence he gave to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse included cases regarding hundreds of children in Australia from the 1960s to the 1990s.
David Ridsdale and the other survivors had travelled to Rome to observe Pell give evidence via videolink after a heart condition stopped the cardinal from travelling to Sydney.
Ridsdale, who was abused as a child by his priest uncle, Gerald Airedale, said the victims fazed their request to the Prefecture of the Papal Household on the advice of Bell's staff.
The cardinal, whose heart condition prevented him from travelling to Australia to appear, was specifically asked about his knowledge of pedophilia priests active in the Victorian city of Ballarat and surrounding regions. Which included Airedale, who was convicted of 138 offences against more than 50 children in Australia.
Pell told the inquiry that the Church had made "enormous mistakes" and "catastrophic" choices by refusing to believe abused children, shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish and over-relying on the counselling of priests to solve the problem.
Australia ordered the Royal Commission in 2012, after a decade of growing pressure, to investigate allegations of pedophilia across the country.
It has so far heard claims of child abuse involving churches, orphanages, community, sports and youth groups and schools.
More than 4,000 victims have taken part in the Royal Commission investigating how religious groups, charities and state care providers responded to the issue of child sex abuse.