GUILTY: Cardinal George Pell (seen today) was found guilty of raping a choirboy in the 1990s and molesting another by a jury in December
Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest ranking Catholic, has been found guilty of raping a choirboy in the 1990s and molesting another.
Pell, 77, is the Vatican’s treasurer and is the most senior Catholic clergyman to be found guilty of child sex offences anywhere in the world.
He was found guilty of four counts of indecent assault and one count of rape by a Victorian jury last December, following three days of deliberations.
His victims were two 13-year-old boys on scholarships to the prestigious St Kevin’s College.
The pair ‘nicked off’ after a Sunday solemn mass in late 1996 and were caught swigging sacramental wine in the priest’s sacristy by Pell, newly installed as Archbishop of Melbourne.
Pell scolded them, exposed his penis from beneath his ornate ceremonial robes, and molested them.
The verdict can finally be revealed after a gag order restricting its publication was lifted on Tuesday, and a second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s was abandoned.
Cardinal George Pell, the Catholic Church’s third most senior cleric, has been found guilty of sexually assaulting two choir boys in a cathedral in Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1990s
Pell is the most senior Catholic clergyman to face trial over sexual offences anywhere in the world. He is pictured last week in Melbourne, Australia, where he was found guilty by a jury
Cardinal George Pell, 77, is known as the Vatican’s treasurer and had been granted a leave of absence while facing trial over child sex offences in Australia. He has surrendered his passport
The 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 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.
He has lodged an appeal of his conviction.
One of the victims, now in his 30s, brought the allegations to police after years of having struggled to understand what he’d experienced.
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.
Pell’s other victim died in 2014 in accidental circumstances.
Top defence barrister Robert Richter QC represented Pell in the trial, and during an earlier trial in which the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict.
Mr Richter failed to convince the latest jury that the cathedral’s processes were so seamless that two boys simply could not have ‘nicked off’ unseen.
He argued the allegations were a ‘far-fetched fantasy’, that Pell was always accompanied after mass and that the cumbersome robes would have prevented him revealing his genitals.
‘Only a madman would attempt to rape boys in the priest’s sacristy immediately after Sunday solemn mass,’ he told the jury.
Pell, who was physically ailing during the trial and on crutches before a double knee replacement over Christmas, remains on bail.
He will return to the County Court for a plea hearing on February 27. Chief Judge Peter Kidd is due to sentence him in March.
The judge who heard Cardinal George Pell’s case has continued a gag order on details of the cardinal’s trial and guilty verdicts being published in his homeland. He is pictured in Rome
The victims, both students at St Kevin’s College in Toorak, an inner suburb of Melbourne, were both in the choir at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
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.
An earlier trial resulted in a hung jury in June but the case was heard again in the County Court of Victoria resulting in the guilty verdicts.
The cardinal was committed to stand trial in May when a magistrate dismissed other, more serious charges.
Pell was removed from Pope Francis’s inner circle of nine clergymen, the Council of Cardinals, following the verdict last year.
But he remained as the Vatican’s treasurer, having been granted a leave of absence by Pope Francis.
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. He is pictured with Pope Francis
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 offences 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.’
‘I’m looking forward, finally, to having my day in court,’ George Pell said in June last year. ‘I’m innocent of those charges. They are false.’ He is pictured at court in Melbourne on Tuesday