Published: Tue, February 26, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Top Vatican cleric Cardinal Pell convicted of child sex crimes

Top Vatican cleric Cardinal Pell convicted of child sex crimes

Cardinal George Pell, Australia's highest-ranking Catholic, has been convicted of five child sex offences committed in 1996.

The jury deliberated for three days before finding him guilty of all counts.

Pell abused the two choirboys at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral after celebrating one of his first Sunday masses as archbishop.

They were swigging sacramental wine when they were discovered.

Pell fondled the boy's genitals while masturbating himself.

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

The second victim died of a heroin overdose in 2014 without ever coming forward about the abuse.

A second jury unanimously convicted him of one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16.

The victim, who is now in his 30s, gave evidence via video link to avoid being in the same room as Pell.

A pre-sentencing hearing is scheduled tomorrow. "Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact upon my life", said the man, who has not been publicly identified.

'At some point, we realise we trusted someone we should have feared, and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust'. His conviction will send shockwaves through the Catholic Church, which has been trying to deal with the implications and widespread damage of institutional sexual abuse. "There are many other survivors and advocated who bravely fill this role", he said.

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"Our hope, at all times, is that through this process, justice will be served", said Coleridge.

Pell was charged with several child sex offences, with two separate sets of allegations.

"In the meantime, we pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones", he said.

The Vatican is yet to make an official statement. The gag order applied to coverage that was available in Australia.

The verdict was made public on Tuesday in Melbourne, following the lifting of a suppression order on the case.

Prosecutors have decided not to go ahead with that trial.

Pell has maintained his innocence over all allegations and his defence team has already lodged an appeal of his conviction. The order was lifted Tuesday.

Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell speaks to the media at the Quirinale hotel in Rome on March 3, 2016.

Following Pell's December conviction, some worldwide media reported the verdict, while local newspapers published front-page stories informing readers that a prominent Australian had been found guilty of serious crimes, but they were not allowed to reveal what or who.

"Although originally the Cardinal faced allegations from a number of complainants, all charges except for those the subject of the appeal have now been either withdrawn, discharged or discontinued".

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