SIX MONTHS ON & HE’S FREE TO ‘ROME’

George Pell George Pell arrives at Rome’s Fiumicino airport for his first visit to the city since he was acquitted of child sexual abuse. Photograph: Alberto Lingria/Reuters

But Was There Special Treatment For Controversial Pell??

On Thursday morning we woke to the news that less than six months after he successfully appealed against child sex abuse offences that he had originally been found guilty of, that Cardinal George Pell had been cleared by the Federal Government to fly to Rome.

Unless you have been on another planet for the past six or seven months, you would be aware that in these times of COVID-19, Australians are only allowed to leave the country in exceptional circumstances.

Indeed, it’s tough enough for less privileged souls like you and I to even travel from state to state, and in the case of those looking to leave the country, the Federal Government website clearly states: “Do not go overseas….a travel ban is in place.”

“You can’t leave Australia unless you get an exemption and the Department of Home Affairs looks after this ban.” Unquote.

So reading between the lines, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has given an exemption to Liberal Party favourite Cardinal Pell, who was once famously visited in prison by former prime minister Tony Abbott and who also counts far right wing media pundits Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt among his mates.

One wonders what the basis of Pell’s reason to travel REALLY is though.

Media reports from Rome suggest that he flew to Italy merely to pack up his apartment….hardly “exceptional circumstances” or confirmation of Pell’s alleged reason for requesting a travel exemption: “travelling to conduct official (Vatican) government business”.

Vatican officials say there is no meeting scheduled between Pell and Pope Francis, so somebody is obviously lying here.

Pell  was only released from custody last April when the High Court ruled that the “evidence did not establish guilt (of sexually abusing two choirboys) to the requisite standard.”

So he wasn’t found innocent either.

Yet the Home Affairs Minister did not hesitate in granting Pell a ‘free pass’ to fly to Rome while thousands other Australians have been prohibited from visiting sick and dying relatives in other countries……or while others conversely, are stranded overseas.

If you’re like me, you are no doubt wondering how and why Pell received such special treatment – what makes him so much better or so more important than the rest of us that he gets the green light to galavant off to Europe – when some Aussies with far more valid, compassionate reasons have been stopped from doing so??

Also if you’re like me, you will be praising Pell’s doctors and the miracles of modern medical science for it was only three or four years ago that Pell was deemed too sick to fly home from his job at the Vatican to face paedophilia allegations in Melbourne.

Fast forward to late 2020 in the middle of a worldwide pandemic – to which the old and frail are the most vulnerable – and we saw pictures of a face-masked Pell this week, striding out fearlessly without his once familiar walking stick or an oxygen mask in sight in Italy, which over the past nine months has recorded almost 36,000 COVID-19 deaths.

On so many levels, the guy just doesn’t get it.

FOOTNOTE: “Compassionate grounds” is one of the six valid reasons for Australians to request a travel exemption. 

However, we are aware of many cases where Australians have been delayed or refused permission to fly overseas to visit sick or dying relatives or to attend funerals.

Almost 105,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents applied for permission to leave the country in the first five months of COVID-19 but only 34,370 of these applications were successful.