Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty on five charges of child sexual abuse committed more than two decades ago against 13-year-old boys in Australia – the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of child sex offences.
The guilty verdict was made public on Tuesday following the lifting of a court suppression order on Pell’s 2018 trial, after a second abuse case against him was dropped by the prosecution.
The downfall of the Vatican’s No.3 official brings to the heart of the papal administration a scandal over clerical abuse that has ravaged the Church’s credibility in the United States, Chile, Australia and elsewhere over the last three decades.
A jury in the County Court of Victoria in Melbourne found Pell guilty on Dec. 11 last year following a four-week 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.
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.
A child 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.
Pope Francis ended a 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.
The school that Pell attended as a boy, St Patrick’s College in Ballarat, about 120 km (75 miles) from Melbourne, said it would remove his name from a building that had been named in his honor.
It would revoke his status as an inducted “legend” of the school and strike a line through his name on a college honor board listing ordained former students the school said.