An Australian citizen who is also priest and a financial controller at Vatican delayed his attendance to a child abuse inquiry due to his heart condition, officials said on Friday.
Catholic Cardinal George Pell, who was previously considered to be a candidate for pope, has been expected to give evidence(s) on December 16 but his counsel has "advised that the Cardinal is currently affected by serious health conditions that, in the opinion of his treating specialists, make his travel to Australia unsafe."
Counsel Allan Myers, requested for Cardinal Pell, to give his testimony via video link instead.
"Cardinal Pell deeply regrets this, and has been preparing himself for this journey for some time, but the circumstances in which he finds himself are the circumstances that exist now," Mr Myers told the commission.
"He doesn't wish to delay the hearing of his evidence before the commission, he wishes it to be received in the ordinary course that's been organised by the commission."
Judge Peter McClellan of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said, referring to Pell’s words, that he had “previously agreed to give evidence in person” he would be called again in February to provide evidence.
"The Cardinal's evidence relates to two case studies which involve a significant amount of complex material," statement said.
The statement also said that the cardinal’s video link from Rome had technical difficulties on an earlier occasion.
The inquiry which is now delayed till February will frustrate victims and their advocates who have heard testimony this year that priests suspected of abuse in Pell's former diocese were moved between parishes and put in church-appointed rehabilitation to avoid repercussions.
A victim and nephew of a pedophile priest, David Ridsdale, who flew from London to Melbourne for the hearing, said "I'm not disappointed, I'm furious."
"I would implore Cardinal Pell to come and face the music like all of us men have had to do for all these years."
74-year-old priest Pell, denies knowledge of attempts to cover up any wrong-doing, referring to a non-judicial abuse compensation scheme he set up in the 1990s.
According to statement from Pell’s office the priest had booked his ticket to Melbourne but his life condition does not allow him to make the trip.
"Cardinal Pell realises there may be some who will question the decision to remain in Rome," it said.
"However, it would be unwise for him not to heed medical advice."