Catholic Church’s 3rd Highest Ranking Official, Found Guilty of Child Abuse
Cardinal George Pell found guilty of sexually abusing two children by Australian court
Cardinal George Pell, the Catholic Church's third highest-ranking clergy member, has been found guilty of sexually abusing two young boys by an Australian court.
Cardinal Pell was unanimously convicted of child sex abuse by an Australian jury on Tuesday, during the final verdict of the historic trial which began in the Summer of 2017.
The 77-year-old Vatican treasurer is the most senior Catholic to be charged with sexual offenses, in the case involving the sexual abuse of two choir boys in Austraila while serving as Archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.
A judge placed a gagging order in Australia to block the press from reporting on the conviction and prevent Pell from being named in his homeland.
The Australian cleric was reportedly found guilty of one count of rape and four counts of indecent assault following three days of deliberations.
Following the announcement of the verdict on Wednesday, Pope Francis announced the Cardinal would be removed from his cabinet.
The Cardinal, who was granted a leave of absence from his role last year as the trial got underway, reportedly abused the boys while they were singing in the choir at St. Patrick's Cathedral in a room within the confines of the church.
Sources also claimed the abuse took place after Pell introduced a compensation scheme for clerical sexual abuse victims known in Australia as the "Melbourne Response," which he established in 1996.
The trial - dubbed the "Cathedral trial" by The Daily Beast, which first reported the conviction - was declared a mistrial earlier this year after a hung jury but was immediately rescheduled.
Tuesday's verdict in the County Court of Victoria was a retrial of the original case - and resulted in his conviction.
A second trial into Pell's alleged abuse known as "the swimmers trial" is due to get underway early next year.
That trial is expected to hear evidence that Pell "sexually offended" two men when they were boys playing games in a swimming pool in Ballarat, Victoria in the 1970s.
A court in Victoria heard in March that Pell, who has denied all of the allegations, would stay in the pool after swimming laps and play with children.
Pell had repeatedly and vehemently denied the accusations against him and Pope Francis had granted him a leave of absence to return to Australia to defend himself.
The judge who heard Pell's case has continued a gag order on details of the cardinal's trial and guilty verdicts being published in his homeland.
That order, which was applied for by prosecutors, was granted to "prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice."
Pell has surrendered his passport as part of his bail conditions and is not permitted to leave Australia.
The cardinal was named the Vatican's Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, making him the third highest-ranking cleric in Rome.
Before being called to the Vatican, Pell served as Archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2014 and was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001.
He was ordained in 1966 and made a cardinal in 2003.
Victorian police charged Pell with the sexual assault offenses in June last year when he was in Rome.
Pell, who was represented by attorney Robert Richter, QC, stated at a press conference at the time he would return to Australia to answer the charges and he was 'looking forward, finally, to having my day in court'.
"I'm innocent of those charges," he said at the time. "They are false."