World News – AU – George Pell: why the cardinal is free to travel to Rome despite the Covid ban in Australia


The cardinal is traveling on official Vatican government business, which means he does not need an exemption

Cardinal George Pell did not need to apply for a travel exemption to leave Australia as he is going to Rome on official Vatican government business

News that Pell was flying from Sydney to Rome on Tuesday drew criticism online, with people wondering why the Australian government – which has banned its citizens from leaving the country as a precautionary Covid-19 – granted him an exemption

When Guardian Australia contacted the Australian Border Force to clarify why Pell was able to leave the country, a spokeswoman said the department did not comment on the individual cases

But the Home Affairs Department clarifies that there are six categories of people who are automatically exempt from the blanket ban and do not need to apply for special permission to leave Australia They include anyone « traveling for official government business ”

Guardian Australia understands that Pell is traveling to Rome for reasons related to official Vatican government business and therefore does not need an exemption

The Catholic News Agency reported on Monday that Pell was due to fly to Rome on Tuesday, about five months after a damning report was delivered by Australia’s Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse, concluding that he was aware that children were victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church but did not act adequately to prevent or stop it

Responding to the news, Australians on Twitter noted that Pell could travel at a time when federal government policy was to prevent most citizens from leaving the country

One Twitter user noted that Pell was leaving the country as tens of thousands of Australians remained stranded abroad due to strict government limits on international arrivals, while another compared his capacity to leave Australia on the exemption granted to Tony Abbott in August

The ABF was criticized earlier in the pandemic for a delay in processing exit exemption requests, which meant some Australians had missed the opportunity to say goodbye to their dying loved ones

However, it has since sped up average processing times for exemption requests, with around 18,000 Australians leaving the country in August 2020 with a valid exemption

Outward travel exemptions are only granted to Australians for a specified list of reasons, including provisions for essential workers and compassionate travel Non-citizens and temporary visa holders do not need an exemption to leave

The six categories of Australian citizens and permanent residents who do not need to apply for a travel exemption include people who are ordinarily resident in another country; airline and shipping company crews; New Zealand citizens holding a subclass 444 visa; those responsible for the day-to-day handling of outgoing freight; essential workers in Australian offshore installations; and those, like Pell, traveling on official government business

Pell was previously the third oldest Catholic in the world when he was Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Economic Affairs, effectively the financial controller of the Church

Although he was not removed from his post after returning to Australia in 2017 to face child sexual abuse, his tenure was not renewed after it expired in February 2019 Pell stepped out of the role as he faced the charges against him

The cardinal – initially convicted of child sexual abuse and spent 13 months in Barwon prison in Victoria – was acquitted in April and has lived in Sydney since

His friend, News Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt, wrote that Pell was returning to Rome « ostensibly to empty his apartment in the Vatican »

George Pell, Vatican City, Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Holy See, Pope Francis, Australia

News from the world – AU – George Pell: why the cardinal is free to surrender in Rome despite Australia’s Covid ban



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