Clerical abuse survivors from Ballarat will fly to Rome this weekend to hear Cardinal George Pell give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Around 15 survivors and support staff will fly on either Friday or Saturday ahead of Cardinal Pell's video evidence on Monday. The survivors will be in the same room as Cardinal Pell while he gives evidence - at this stage it looks likely to be at a Rome hotel.
"It will have the same conditions and gravitas as if he were here," said Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were repeatedly abused as primary school students by a Catholic priest in Melbourne. One later took her own life. "But we will not be satisfied until we see true justice for the victims." On the question of whether Cardinal Pell was directly involved in abuse and is being investigated by police, Mr Foster said: "We will leave that to Victoria police."
He said to sit in the same room as Cardinal Pell when he gives evidence will be "extraordinary".
Sexual abuse survivor Andrew Collins, of Ballarat, said it was important that Cardinal Pell face victims and not be able to give Monday's evidence to a Sydney hearing of the royal commission from Rome in isolation. "He should have to see people and look into their eyes."
Mr Collins, 47, was abused between the ages of seven and 14 by four different men in Ballarat, and is now a spokesman for the Ballarat and District Survivors Group.
He said three supporters would fly to Rome with the victims to help them emotionally. He said being in Rome near the Vatican and seeing so much Catholicism around them would "trigger" victims. They would stay in Rome only until Cardinal Pell has given evidence, then fly home. "It will be an arduous journey," said David Ridsdale, a victim and nephew of notorious Ballarat Catholic priest Gerard Ridsdale.
The royal commission hearing in Ballarat was told this morning the request to fly to Rome – paid for by a successful crowd-funding campaign – was, according to Justice Peter McClellan, "reasonable".
Cardinal Pell has been excused from fronting the commission in person for medical reasons.
Justice McClellan said the Australian embassy in Rome had secured a hotel room with the appropriate technical facilities to get a signal of his evidence to Sydney and accommodate the survivors who want to be in Rome to hear it.
The hotel room's broadcasting capabilities will be tested later today but Justice Maclellan said it was "unlikely" another venue would have to be found.
A crowd-funding appeal to send survivors of abuse by the Church to Rome beat its target of $55,000 in just one day.
The appeal has largely been bolstered by proceeds from a song by Tim Minchin, called Come Home.