Vatican treasurer convicted of sexually abusing 13-year-old boys

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Cardinal George Pell has been remanded in custody after being found guilty of sexual offences against children in Australia.

Pell faced a plea hearing in the Victorian County Court following his conviction on five charges relating to the sexual abuse of two choirboys in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral dating back to 1996. "It involved two vulnerable boys, given their age, 13". He exposed himself and forced them to perform oral sex on him.

The charges on which Pell...

The cleric, who remained free on bail throughout the proceedings, denied all the charges and an initial trial ended with a hung jury in September.

Still, the jury unanimously believed the victim's testimony and returned five guilty verdicts.

As a correspondent, my job is to tell people what's happened.

Pell's lawyers have appealed his conviction.

Pell, the most senior Catholic priest to be convicted for child sex offences, maintains his innocence and plans to appeal. The first trial would be for allegations of sexual abuse inside a Melbourne cathedral in the mid-1990s; the second trial - later -would be for alleged crimes at a swimming pool in the 1970s.

That verdict was made public on February 26 after months of procedural secrecy, and the abandonment of a second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Other charges initially brought against him were dropped during pre-trial committal hearings.

Those consequences could include being defrocked or removed from the College of Cardinals.

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Prosecutor Mark Gibson called on the court to keep the former Vatican treasurer behind bars until sentencing on March 13 due to the seriousness of his offenses and the fact that he has never shown any remorse.

A bail application had been listed in the Court of Appeal on Wednesday afternoon but was withdrawn. Pell's legal team said it would appeal.

"We see that nobody is untouchable", Zollner said.

The Pell and McCarrick cases drastically escalate the gravity and reach of the sexual abuse scandals for the Vatican, where last week bishops from around the world met to map prevention strategies. About one in five Australians are Catholic.

On Tuesday, Pell's lawyer Robert Richter QC accepted a prison sentence was inevitable but said he meant to appeal on three grounds, including that the jury verdict was unreasonable as it was contrary to the evidence.

There was silence in the filled courtroom as Pell slowly stood and was handed his walking stick. His head bowed after the second verdict, but he restored his composure for the final verdicts. The man said that he did not tell about his ordeal at the time out of fear of being expelled from a prestigious school, where his scholarship depended on him being in the choir.

"It only succeeds rarely, and in an exceptional case, because in our system, great reliance is placed upon the common sense of the jury", Collins said.

"Pell does no honour to the people of Australia".

"At some point we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust". No one who actually knows the history of Catholic reform in Australia can doubt that the man who turned that pattern of denial and cover-up around was George Pell-who also had the honesty and courage to apply the stringent standards he imposed on others accused of abuse to himself. He did not testify during the trial.

One memorable attack on him came shortly after I had stayed at his Melbourne home in late 2000: The author claimed that then-Archbishop Pell was enamored of liturgical finery and that his house was filled with richly brocaded vestments and other expensive ecclesiastical bric-a-brac.

Seen as the number-three ranked cardinal in the Vatican and a member of the pope's informal cabinet, Pell was a powerful figure in the church and one of the most prominent religious figures in Australian history.

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