Vatican says news of Pell conviction is painful

Published: Feb. 26, 2019 at 8:07 AM EST
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A Vatican spokesman says the "painful" news of Cardinal George Pell's conviction for molesting choirboys in Australia has shocked many people, but adds that the prelate "has reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself" until the last level of justice.

Acting Holy See spokesman Alessandro Gisotti read a statement to reporters Tuesday at the Vatican but didn't take questions. He said Pope Francis has confirmed "precautionary measures" already taken against Pell, including a ban on his saying Mass in public and "as is the rule, contact in any way or form with minors."


8:15 p.m.

An Australian prelate says the nation's bishops hope that "justice will be served" throughout Australia's legal process, including during Cardinal George Pell's appeal of his conviction for molesting two choirboys after celebrating Mass.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge also told reporters in Rome Tuesday that "we pray for all those who have been abused and for their loved ones and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable."

Coleridge was in Rome for Pope Francis' four-day summit on clergy sex abuse that ended at the Vatican on Sunday.

Pell had served as the pontiff's top financial adviser.

Coleridge didn't take questions from reporters.


7:30 p.m.

The head of the Australian bishops conference says Cardinal George Pell's conviction on child sex abuse charges has "shocked many in Australia and around the world," including Australia's bishops.

But Brisbane Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge says the bishops agree that "everyone should be equal under the law and we respect the Australian legal system."

Coleridge read a statement to reporters in Rome Tuesday, two days after he participated at the Vatican in Pope Francis' special summit to chart sexual abuse prevention strategies.

The Vatican issued no immediate comment on Pell's conviction for molesting two choirboys.


2:10 p.m.

A law firm representing the father of a sex abuse victim who died of a heroin overdose says his son's abuser, Cardinal George Pell, has "blood on his hands."

Shine Lawyers attorney Lisa Flynn says the father, who like his son cannot be named because it is illegal under Australian law to identify a victim of sexual assault, is planning to sue the church or Pell individually once his appeal is finalized.

Flynn says the victim's fatal overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 was linked to his post-traumatic stress disorder.

While the victim had never reported abuse to his family or police, a jury found in December he had been sexually abused by Pell in 1996 on the testimony of a friend whom Pell was also convicted of abusing.


1:40 p.m.

An Australian man who was sexually abused decades ago by Cardinal George Pell says he has experienced "shame, loneliness, depression and struggle."

The man issued a statement after it was publicly revealed that Pell had been convicted in December of the assault. The court until Tuesday had forbidden publication of any details about the trial.

The man was one of two former choirboys that Pell was convicted of molesting moments after celebrating Mass in 1996 when Pell was archbishop. The boys were 13 at the time.

In his statement, the man said it had taken him years to understand the impact the assault had on his life. The man cannot be identified because it is illegal to name victims of sexual assault in Victoria state.


11:10 a.m.

The most senior Catholic cleric ever charged with child sex abuse has been convicted in Australia of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass.

Cardinal George Pell is Pope Francis' top financial adviser and the Vatican's economy minister. He bowed his head as a jury delivered unanimous verdicts in the Victoria state County Court on Dec. 11 after more than two days of deliberation.

The court had until Tuesday forbidden publication of any details about the trial.

The 77-year-old faces a potential maximum 50-year prison term after a sentencing hearing which begins on Wednesday. He has foreshadowed an appeal.

The jury convicted Pell of abusing two 13-year-old boys whom he had caught swigging sacramental wine in a rear room of Melbourne's St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1996 when he was archbishop.

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