Vatican treasurer convicted of sexually abusing 2 choir boys

A jury in the Country Court of Victoria in Melbourne found Pell guilty on December 11 last year following a fourweek trial.
Convicted cardinal George Pell.

MELBOURNE\VATICAN CITY: An Australian court has found Cardinal George Pell, one of the highest ranking Vatican officials and a former top adviser to Pope Francis, guilty on five charges of child sexual offences committed more than two decades ago against 13-year-old boys. 

The verdict was made public on Tuesday following the lifting of a court suppression order on the trial, after a second abuse case against Pell — the most senior Catholic clergyman worldwide to be convicted for child sex offences — was dropped by the prosecution. Pell’s lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict. He had pleaded not guilty to all five charges. 

In the Vatican’s first response, spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told reporters the conviction was “painful” for many but that the cardinal had proclaimed his innocence and had the right to “defend himself until last level” of judicial process. 

A jury in the Country Court of Victoria in Melbourne found Pell guilty on December 11 last year following a fourweek trial. 

He was convicted of five sexual offences committed against the 13-year-old choir boys 22 years earlier in the priests’ sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, where Pell was archbishop. One of the two victims died in 2014.

 Each of the five offences carries a maximum 10 years in jail. Pell’s lawyers have filed an appeal against the verdict on three grounds, which if successful could lead to a retrial.

 “Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so,” Pell’s lawyer, Paul Galbally, said outside the court. Pell, who remains on bail, left the court on Tuesday without speaking to reporters, who virtually mobbed him as he walked from the courthouse steps to a waiting car.

 Achild abuse survivor, who identified himself as Michael Advocate as his real name is suppressed under Australian law, shouted to Pell: “Burn in Hell.”

 Pell is due to return to court on Wednesday for the start of his sentencing hearing. Gisotti disclosed hitherto unpublished restrictions that Australian Church leaders had imposed on Pell when the cardinal returned to his native country in 2017 to defend himself.

 The spokesman said Pope Francis “confirmed” measures prohibiting Pell from practising his ministry in public and from having contact with minors “in any way or form”.

 The verdict has been made public as the Catholic church tries to deal with a growing child sexual abuse crisis, following scandals in the US, Chile, Germany and Australia.

 The pope ended the conference on sexual abuse on Sunday, calling for an “all out battle” against a crime that should be “erased from the face of the earth”. 

The Vatican said in December that Francis had removed Pell, 77, from his group of close advisers, without commenting on the trial. 

Gisotti said on Tuesday that Pell’s five-year term as economy minister for the Vatican had expired on February 24 but would not say if Pell was still technically in the position pending the naming of a successor.
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