Australian Cardinal Pell convicted of child sex crimes

Hetty Johnston

Hetty Johnston

Cardinal Pell was accused of Pell cornering boys and forcing them to perform a sex act on him.

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

Prosecutors claimed Pell then berated the boys before proceeding to manoeuvre his robes and remove his penis. Pell's lawyers have filed an appeal against the verdict on three grounds, which if successful could lead to a retrial.

Pell was granted bail after the verdict was handed down so he could have surgery on his knees.

Physically ailing, the cardinal has been free on bail.

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge said he hoped "justice will be served".

An Australian court has found Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican treasurer and a former top adviser to Pope Francis, guilty on five charges of child sexual offences committed more than two decades ago against 13-year-old boys.

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis' top financial adviser and the Vatican's economy minister, bowed his head but then regained his composure as the 12-member jury delivered unanimous verdicts in the Victoria state County Court on December 11 after more than two days of deliberation.

A jury in the County Court of Victoria in Melbourne had found Pell guilty on December 11 past year following a four-week trial.

The victim, who was a school boy when abused by Pell, on Tuesday asked for his privacy to be respected.

Pell's other victim died in 2014, he had never made an official complaint.

Prosecutors have since made a decision to not go ahead with the second case.

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Jurors accepted the memories of the surviving choirboy, now in his 30s, about the terrible minutes that followed that mass a week or two before Christmas.

The complainant testified that he feared that making such accusations against a powerful church man would cost him his place in the choir and with it his scholarship to prestigious St. Kevin's College. He then undid his trousers and pulled his penis from under his ceremonial robes.

Pell walked out of court on Tuesday to a huge media scrum.

One would deal with charges relating to his time as archbishop in Melbourne in the 1990s and the other when he was a young priest in Ballarat in the 1970s. Pell is due to be sentenced in early March.

Afraid of jeopardising his schooling and not understanding what had happened or "if it was normal", the survivor didn't say a word for years.

A month or so after he was raped by Pell he was sexually assaulted again, pushed against a cathedral wall by the now-Cardinal who fondled his genitals.

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.

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

A previous trial on the charges, which began in August, resulted in a hung jury and the retrial.

In a move rarely - if ever - seen in a Victorian court, Mr Richter used a slideshow to lay out the defence case in his closing remarks.

Victoria's Court of Appeal will decide if the jury's verdict stands.

The convictions were confirmed the same week that Francis concluded his extraordinary summit of Catholic leaders summoned to Rome for a tutorial on preventing clergy sexual abuse and protecting children from predator priests.

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