The 14 sex abuse survivors who have travelled to Rome to face Cardinal George Pell as he gives evidence to the royal commission have described their visit as like being dragged into "the belly of the beast".
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George Pell to give evidence in Rome
The survivors of child sex abuse at the hands of pedophile Catholic priests are on the verge of a huge moral victory.
Survivor Andrew Collins, who was sexually abused by numerous priests as a boy, said the group was made up of broken men, but together they were a formidable force. More will join them at the hearing.
"You put a group of broken men together and if one falls down, they pick the other one up," Mr Collins said.
"Together we have strength. We could never have come here and done this alone. It's not the abuses of our past that unite us, it's our quest for justice which has brought us all to this place.
"This is the most Catholic city in the world, in every sense. It is enemy territory and we are being dragged into the belly of the beast. But we're not here for a bloody battle. We're here for the truth."
The trip follows a national crowd-funding campaign to help the survivors bear witness to Cardinal Pell's evidence in Rome after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse accepted a medical report that said the he was at risk of heart failure if he made the journey back to Australia.
As Australia's most senior Catholic and the head of the Vatican's economy, Cardinal Pell will face many difficult questions in the coming days as he sits in a conference room of the Albergo Quirinale. Witnesses who made allegations against him have already been cross-examined.
The campaign raised more than $200,000 and there is still more funding to come. The proceeds from comedian Tim Minchin's song, Come Home (Cardinal Pell), which reached No.1 on the Australian iTunes chart, have yet to be counted.
For a few survivors, including Gordon "Bushman Hilly" Hill, it is their first trip overseas. Mr Hill was an orphan at St Joseph's Home at Sebastopol between 1943 and 1959. He was raped and beaten by priests almost daily during his childhood. His body is rippled with the physical scars of his past.
"We were the drones of St Joey's," Mr Hill said. "We didn't go to school. Instead, we did all the work around the orphanage. We didn't know our full names and we were just given a number. My number was 29 because that was my locker number."
For Mr Hill this journey is about acknowledgement of the church's harrowing history of abuse of children.
"I want them to acknowledge what they did to us as kids," he said.
Tony Wardley was abused from the age of six at three different schools in Ballarat in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"We wouldn't be here if it was just any old priest [presenting evidence]," Mr Wardley said. "George Pell has the power set the truth free, but he also has the power to change the future."
Two cousins abused at the hands of their uncle, paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale, will also front Cardinal Pell on Monday.
David Ridsdale told the royal commission last year that in 1993, after disclosing to Cardinal Pell the sexual abuse he had suffered, the senior Catholic asked what it would take to keep him quiet.
Cardinal Pell has denied claims he tried to bribe Mr Ridsdale. Cardinal Pell notoriously supported his uncle during his first court appearance for child sex crimes in 1993.
Mr Ridsdale said the men had been floored by the groundswell of support.
"The last 10 days have been the most extraordinary of my life," Mr Ridsdale said.
"The support is something I could have never imagined. The strength in numbers has seen a shift in the imbalance of power victims have faced with the church all their lives. We feel like people are finally listening to us."
His cousin Dominic Ridsdale, who only recently went public about his abuse, said the group was in Rome to protect future generations of children.
"As kids, our voices were never heard and we've been left crippled by this," he said.
"We're not angry, we just want the truth and we want the world to take action so it never happens again. Children are our most precious and vulnerable people; they must have a voice."
Peter Blenkiron was sexually abused by paedophile Christian Brother Edward Dowlan at St Patrick's College when he was 11.
He said it was time for the Catholic clergy to stop the denial.
"It's time for change on so many levels, for all institutions that have a culture which has enabled these horrific crimes to take place," Mr Blenkiron said.
Mr Blenkiron said he could still hear the echoes of the cheers from the hundreds of people who waved the bus load of survivors off from their home town in Ballarat.
"There were so many people that had looks in their eyes ... they were people who have lost people they love who have died as a result of being abused," he said.
"They were people who had been through it themselves. I can still hear the echoes of their voices in Rome saying, 'No more.' This journey is about stopping the premature deaths and putting in systems to keep future children safe, always, in all ways."
Cardinal Pell served in Ballarat between 1973 and 1984, presiding over a primary school where four Christian Brothers were paedophiles and lived in a presbytery with Gerald Ridsdale, in 1973.
He was also on the bishop's college of consultors committee, a group of senior priests who advised Bishop Ronald Mulkearns throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
The child sex abuse inquiry was told late last year that church leaders including Cardinal Pell were at a high-level church meeting where it was decided to send Ridsdale away in 1979.
The evidence contradicted all previous reports that problems managing Ridsdale were first raised by former Bishop Mulkearns at a meeting of seven priests, including Cardinal Pell, in 1982.