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Roads to Rome: slavery, human rights and cleaning up the Vatican finances …

  • April 2nd, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

romePope Francis’s diary of late has noted two Australian items, billionaire Andrew Forrest stepping up his anti-slavery campaign, and Cardinal George Pell about to start work as the Vatican head of finance. One other visit of special note, the first to the new Pope by President Barack Obama.




andrew forrestMr Forrest the mining magnate from Western Australia had an audience with the Pope (17.3.14), to inaugurate a trust called the Global Freedom Network. Its plan is to work against various forms of modern slavery by searching it out in the supply chains of corporations and governments, and he said he’d make sure it was well funded.

He brought along to the Vatican, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and  Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, a Grand Imam and leader within the Sunni tradition of the Moslem faith.

Andrew Forrest, who began campaigning two years ago, said he’d investigated and found slavery connections in the supply chain of his own enterprises.

He’d learned also at first hand, discovering that children looked after by his daughter at a Nepalese orphanage had been sold off as livestock for exploitation.

He said civil society actions like the Global Freedom Network could lead governments to use their authority in law making and stronger action.

Abuses like child labour, the sex trade in women and children, indentured labour schemes, or gross exploitation of guest workers such as household maids, had enslaved some 29.8 million people. The main locations cited, mostly very populous states: Bangladesh, China, Congo (RDC), Ethiopia, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia and Thailand.




Cardinal_George_PellThe former Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, sought to make amends with victims of sexual abuse by clergy, 24.3.14, at the Australian Royal Commission into abuse of children within institutions.

A Cardinal since 2003, he’d been named in February as the Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy, at the Holy See; charged by the Pope with investigating and running the Vatican finances; in fact to fix and modernise a system in disorder and prone to scandal.

The Cardinal had become an unpopular figure at home, identified with the policy of qualified admissions and resistance to compensation claims, much of the trouble of his own making through inept appearances before cameras.

Ready for departure for Rome, by 29.3.14, at the Royal Commission he gave a more fulsome apology than previously heard.

He recanted on the use of Church lawyers, even if the action was legally “not improper”,  to doubt, discredit and diminish the claims of high-profile victims, notably John Ellis, whose case came to weaken those of other claimants. (Mr Ellis said victims should not have to go to court for justice in such cases.)

See Witness Statement by George Pell:,(26.4.14).

Cardinal Pell also spent time talking privately with victims and their families.




obama popePresident Barack Obama, at work in Europe (see EUAustralia Online, Ukraine crisis brings Obama to Brussels, 27.3.14), included in his itinerary a visit to the Pope, 27.3.14, who as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected just over one year before.

Mr Obama said he spoke with his host about “responsibilities we all share to care for … the poor, the excluded”, and he’d been moved by the Pope’s emphasis on “having a moral perspective on world problems, not simply thinking in terms of our own narrow self-interests.”

A Vatican statement said the talk had included the hope, that “in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law, and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.”

Officials on the side took note of Vatican questions, and objections to aspects of America’s new, and rudimentary national health care project, notably requirements on Catholic health services to carry a full complement of drugs, including ones for abortion or contraception.



ABC, Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, Witness Statement, 24.3.14., (26.4.14).

Tess Livingstone, Mining magnate Andrew Forrest and Pope Francis in pact to end slavery, The Australian, Sydney, 18.3.14., (26.4.14).

George Pell, (lengthy biography), Wikipedia, SF., (26.4.14).

USA Today, Tyson’s Corner Va., Obama has first audience with Pope Francis, 27.3.14., (26.4.14).


Pictures, QUT, wikipedia