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Abuse royal commission: Cardinal George Pell's denies his security guards 'pushed, punched' Australian media in Rome

Cardinal George Pell has denied that private security guards protecting him were involved in a scuffle with members of the Australian media. 

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George Pell arrival 'surprisingly rough'

Fairfax Media Europe correspondent Nick Miller describes the tumultuous arrival of Cardinal George Pell ahead of his testimony to the Royal Commission. Vision courtesy Sunrise, Network Seven.

A reporter and cameramen were allegedly pushed and shoved by security guards who were surrounding the Cardinal as he arrived at a hotel in Rome to make his third appearance before the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.

In a statement, Cardinal Pell said Italian Police were "in charge of security outside and inside the hotel where the hearing is taking place".

Cardinal Pell's security shoving an Australian TV camera.
Cardinal Pell's security shoving an Australian TV camera. Photo: Hugh Whitfeld, Seven News, via Twitter

"The incident did not involve Cardinal Pell's security as it has been reported," it said.

The statement said Cardinal Pell had heard a report that a SBS reporter and cameraman were "treated unnecessarily roughly and were pushed and shoved".

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"Just before giving evidence Cardinal Pell asked a member of his team to contact the reporter to check on his well being."

Italian Police and Commission staff are investigating.

Italian Police reviewing Australian TV vision, after Cardinal Pell's security guards allegedly strong-arm media.
Italian Police reviewing Australian TV vision, after Cardinal Pell's security guards allegedly strong-arm media. Photo: Hugh Whitfeld, Seven News, via Twitter

Members of the media had reported that security guards protecting Cardinal Pell had pushed and shoved cameramen and punched a reporter.

"Before he even got out of the car a number of big, burly security guards got out before him and they basically assaulted, I guess, for want of a better word, the [television] crew that was waiting there for him," Channel Nine reporter Amelia Ballinger said.

Cardinal Pell at the Vatican.
Cardinal Pell at the Vatican. Photo: AP

"Our cameraman was pushed over, another journalist waiting to question [Cardinal] Pell was punched in the stomach, and [Cardinal] Pell went in without any of us being able to question him."

Joe Hill from Ten News told radio station 3AW it was not a good start to the appearance, which is receiving worldwide attention.

Abuse victims, their supporters and families arrive at Rome's Hotel Quirinale ahead of Cardinal Pell's testimony.
Abuse victims, their supporters and families arrive at Rome's Hotel Quirinale ahead of Cardinal Pell's testimony. Photo: Hugh Whitfeld, Seven News, via Twitter

"In terms of [Cardinal] George Pell's first appearance at this hearing, it is the worst possible look," he said.

Channel Seven reporter Chris Reason said the visiting abuse survivors were not surprised by the heavy-handed tactics.

LIVE: Cardinal Pell gives evidence

The Royal Commission hears evidence from Cardinal George Pell at the Hotel Quirinale in Rome as part of its public hearings into Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat and the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

A group of Australian survivors will watch the Cardinal, who was too ill to return to Australia for questioning, give his videolink testimony to the commission in Sydney from a chandelier-hung conference room at the Hotel Quirinale from 8am (AEDT).

Cardinal Pell, who is now in charge of the Vatican's finances, will be questioned for three to four days about what he knew of historic paedophile activity by priests when he served in Ballarat and Melbourne.

On the eve of his testimony it emerged he had tied a yellow ribbon at the Lourdes grotto in the Vatican Gardens in support of Loud Fence, a movement supporting abuse victims that started in Ballarat and spread worldwide.

"This is my gesture of support, especially for the people of Ballarat," Cardinal Pell said in a statement.

"I hope the coming days will eventually lead to healing for everyone."

Andrew Collins, who was abused from the age of seven in Ballarat, said he would like to see the Cardinal lay out what the church knew and when, and admit it did things wrong.

"Unfortunately, I think he will continue to say, 'I don't recall, I don't remember' and to put the welfare of the Church before the welfare of the people the Church has hurt," he said.

The 47-year-old said his survivor group was not on a witch hunt, but on quest for truth to ensure such abuse never happened again.

Cardinal Pell served in Ballarat between 1973 and 1984, presiding over a primary school where four Christian Brothers were paedophiles and living in a presbytery with Australia's worst paedophile priest, Gerald Ridsdale, in 1973.

with AAP