Cardinal George Pell has been convicted of sexually assaulting children by a Victorian court.
Australia’s most senior Catholic, Pell was found guilty on five charges of abusing children under the age of 16: one of sexual penetration of a child and four others of an indecent act with, or in the presence of, a child.
The cardinal pleaded not guilty to the charges and his lawyers have said he will be appealing the conviction.
Pell has been on leave as the Vatican’s treasurer, the third most senior Catholic in the world, while facing trial for his charges.
The trial concluded with the verdict handed down in December. However, due to a suppression order Australia’s media have only been able to report on it from today.
The offences for which Pell has been convicted, involving two 13-year-old choirboys, occurred at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne while he was then an archbishop. The verdict handed down by a jury was unanimous. He is due to be sentenced next week.
News in Australia of the conviction comes just days after Pope Francis led a special gathering of senior bishops and cardinals at the Vatican in an effort to confront and deal with the issue of the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy around the world.
Cardinal Pell is the most senior Catholic to have ever been convicted of sexually assaulting children.
While media around the world have been reporting on George Pell’s trial for some time, there has been a suppression order against reporting on it in Australia. The order was in place to prevent prejudicing the outcome of another trial on separate charges. That trial was dropped due to insufficient evidence and so the gag was lifted today.