Guilty of abuse

Guilty of abuse

Australian Cardinal George Pell © Paul Haring (CBA)

As chief financial officer, Australian Cardinal Pell was number three at the Vatican. Now the former pope's confidant is convicted of child molestation. The 77-year-old faces many years in prison.

Australian Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of raping a choirboy and sexually assaulting another boy. A few days after the abuse summit at the Vatican, Judge Peter Kidd on Tuesday in Melbourne lifted the total ban on reporting on the trial of the 77-year-old, confirming the ban already in place on 11. December 2018 verdict handed down unanimously by the jury, Australian media reported.

The former Vatican finance minister and confidant of Pope Francis is the highest-ranking Catholic dignitary in the world to be charged and convicted of sexually abusing boys.

Wednesday's hearing will discuss length of incarceration

The day after the December 2018 verdict, announced in camera, Pope Francis dismissed George Pell and two other cardinals from the influential Council of Cardinals for Church Reform. On Wednesday this week, the Melbourne court will begin deliberations on the length of Pell's prison sentence. The decision is expected next week. Pell's defense lawyers announced they would appeal the conviction. The lifting of the reporting ban was justified, according to media, by the prosecution's decision not to pursue a second case against Pell.

The court had considered it proven that Pell forced two 13-year-old boys to perform oral sex in the Australian metropolis' cathedral 22 years ago when he was archbishop of Melbourne, the media said. In the months that followed, the boys had been sexually abused by Pell on several occasions, they said.

Victim asked media to respect his privacy

In an emotional statement, the man who was abused by Pell as a boy asked the media to respect his privacy. He said he did not want to give interviews, protect his young family and parents. "I am not a spokesperson on the ie of child sexual abuse. There are many other victims and activists who are courageously filling this role," the statement, published in full in Australian media, said.

Second abuse victim had died of heroin overdose in 2014. Speaking on behalf of the late man's father, lawyer Lisa Flynn said, "This ruling is a sign to abuse victims that they have the right to tell their stories. Justice has prevailed and the nation is finally listening to you."

Cardinal Pell vigorously denied the allegations against him. At the start of the main trial in August 2018, Pell pleaded not guilty to the charges. Before the start of the trial, the cardinal publicly demonstrated composure. In mid-July 2018, Pell was in good spirits in Sydney attending the engagement party of the daughter of the chancellor of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

Reactions of the Australian Bishops' Conference

Australian church leaders reacted with "shock" and "surprise" at the guilty verdict. "The news of Cardinal George Pell's conviction on historic child sexual abuse charges has shocked many in Australia and around the world, including the Catholic bishops of Australia," Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the bishops' conference, said on its website. He said the bishops stood by the principle of equality of all before the law and respected the Australian legal system. "The same system on which the verdict was reached will consider the appeal filed by the cardinal's legal team," Archbishop Coleridge added.

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli made similar comments about the conviction of his predecessor. "It is important now that we await the outcome of the appeal with respect for the ongoing legal proceedings," the archbishop stressed. Both Coleridge and Comensoli pledged to do all they can to ensure the church is a "safe place" for children.

Pell's lawyers stressed in a statement that their client "has always stressed his innocence and will continue to do so". The sentence is expected to be announced in the middle of next week. (CBA)

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