Former Vatican treasurer under Pope Francis is the highest-ranking Catholic official ever convicted of child sex crimes.
Cardinal George Pell’s last-chance appeal against his child sex abuse convictions opened in Australia’s top court on Wednesday, with his fate now in the hands of the country’s most senior judges.
The 78-year-old, who is serving a six-year sentence for sexually assaulting two choirboys in the 1990s, was not present for the two-day High Court hearing in Canberra, where his lawyers will mount a final bid to clear his name.
Pell’s supporters gathered outside the High Court building, waving Australian flags and carrying signs that read: “Cardinal Pell is innocent forever” and “Keep the faith Cardinal Pell”.
In December 2018, a jury found the former Vatican treasurer, who once helped elect popes, guilty on five counts of abusing the 13-year-old boys at a Melbourne cathedral while he was the city’s archbishop.
Pell, who served as the Vatican’s treasurer under Pope Francis, is the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted of child sex crimes.
He was sentenced in March 2019 and lost a first appeal in August, a decision that saw a three-judge panel split in a 2-1 verdict.
The case pitted the cleric against a former choirboy victim now in his 30s, whom two of the judges found to be “very compelling” and someone who “was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth”.
The third judge, however, found the man’s account “contained discrepancies” and there was a “significant possibility” Pell did not commit the offences.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES