One of Pope Francis' top advisers acknowledged Sunday that the Catholic Church "made enormous mistakes" in allowing thousands of children to be molested or raped by priests over centuries as he testified before an extraordinary public hearing of an Australian investigative commission from a few blocks away from the Vatican.

Australian Cardinal George Pell testified via video for four hours from a Rome hotel to the Royal Commission sitting in Sydney. In the front row of the conference room were two dozen Australian abuse survivors and their companions, who had traveled across the globe to witness Pell's testimony, a significant show of accountability in the church's long-running abuse saga.

The lead counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness, questioned Pell about current Vatican efforts to address the scandal as well as Pell's past in Australia, including how he dealt with abuse allegations as a priest, educator and adviser to former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns.