Cardinal George Pell to face sentencing hearings from Wednesday.

Cardinal George Pell. Credit: CNA

Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of sexual offences in Australia, making him the highest-ranking Catholic figure to receive such a conviction.

Although, Pell had pleaded not guilty, he’s been accused of abused two choir boys in the rooms of a Melbourne cathedral in 1996, a jury found.

The verdict was handed down in December, but it could not be reported until now due to legal reasons. BBC reported.

Pell is due to face sentencing hearings from Wednesday. He has lodged an appeal against his conviction.
“Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so.” His lawyer said.

As Vatican treasurer, the 77-year-old Australian was one of the Church’s most powerful officials.

His trial was heard twice last year because a first jury failed to reach a verdict.

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.

Inside a strictly controlled trial
Pell was swarmed by media and heckled by onlookers as he left a court on Tuesday.

The Catholic Church worldwide has in recent years faced a damaging series of allegations relating to sex abuse by priests, and claims that these cases were covered up.

Pope Francis has just held an unprecedented summit on paedophilia in the Church.

What did the court hear?
Pell was archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 when he found the two 13-year-old boys in cathedral rooms following a mass, the County Court of Victoria was told.

After telling them they were in trouble for drinking communion wine, Pell forced each boy into indecent acts, prosecutors said. He abused one of the boys again in 1997.

A jury rejected an argument by Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter QC, that the allegations were fantasies contrived by the victims.

What has been the reaction?
In a statement on Tuesday, Pell’s surviving victim – who cannot be named – called the case stressful and “not over yet”.

The man said he had experienced “shame, loneliness, depression and struggle” because of the abuse.

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“Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact upon my life,” he said.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said the conviction had “shocked many across Australia and around the world”, reiterating its vow to make the Church “a safe place for all”.

Abuse survivor groups welcomed the verdict.

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