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Pell not too unwell to travel to Australia

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Lawyers for Cardinal George Pell have renewed their application for him to give evidence at the royal commission into child sexual abuse via video from Rome, even though he hasn’t been precluded from travelling.

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Pell, who is based in Rome where he manages the Vatican’s finances, was initially scheduled to give evidence in Melbourne in December, but cancelled because of a worsening heart condition.

A directions hearing in Sydney on Friday to consider the capacity of Australia’s most high-profile Roman Catholic to give testimony on February 22 was told a medical examination on January 29 did not “preclude” Pell from travel.

Alan Myers, QC, representing Pell, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that his client “when he was able to, was not unwilling to travel to Australia and give evidence before the Commission”.

“For the reasons that are set out in the medical opinion to which I’ve referred, that’s not the position at the moment,” Myers said.

The chairman of the Commission, Justice Peter McClellan, said the medical opinion tendered did not say Pell could not travel to Australia.

“That doesn’t preclude his travel, does it?” McClellan asked.

“The doctor opines that it would be difficult for him to undertake a flight.

“It doesn’t mean he can’t come.”

McClellan had previously made it clear it was his preference for Pell to appear in person.

The commission wants to hear testimony from Pell, as well as former Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns, about decades of sexual and physical abuse at schools run by the Roman Catholic clergy.

McClellan will announce his decision on Monday.

– AAP

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