The new ambassador to the Holy See told a Catholic publication that her aim was to change the Vatican’s “narrative” about Australia away from the child abuse royal commission and cardinal George Pell – comments that have infuriated abuse survivors.
In an interview with Catholic Health Australia in September, the newly appointed ambassador Chiara Porro spoke of a recent audience with the Pope, during which she raised the work local Catholic groups were doing on health and education.
She then said: “You know whenever people [in the Vatican] think of Australia they think immediately about cardinal Pell and the royal commission.
“So my aim here is to change that narrative.”
The comments, which have since forced a clarification from the foreign affairs minister, angered abuse survivors, who say Australia’s ambassador, as a representative of all Australians, should be raising the royal commission as often as possible to help avoid a repeat of the horrific child abuse scandal it exposed.
“Our embassy isn’t flying Australia’s flag, it’s flying the Vatican’s flag,” one survivor, who requested anonymity, said.
“The frustration is that the ambassador isn’t just sitting on the fence, but actively working to … change the narrative, to divert the attention away from the negative things that happened in the church.
“It’s so annoying to watch because the ambassador’s job is to try to fix the problems identified by the royal commission.”
The foreign affairs minister Marise Payne has since distanced the government from the ambassador’s comments.