A 78-year-old cardinal serving a six-year jail term for sexually abusing two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral in the1990s can make a final appeal against a March ruling, a two-judge bench of the High Court in Canberra said on Wednesday.
A full bench of the top court is expected to hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal in March next year. His earlier plea was dismissed by Victoria’s Court of Appeal in August.
On Wednesday, the judges James Edelman and Michelle Gordon, did not explain why a fresh appeal hearing was granted in Pell’s case.
Pell, a former Vatican treasurer lodged in a Melbourne jail, did not appear in court on Wednesday.
The cardinal, once close to Pope Francis, was convicted on five counts related to child abuse in December last year.
Throughout the trial, he had maintained his innocence.
Of the two choirboys Pell sexually assaulted, one died from a drug overdose when he was 31 and the other survived to fight his case.
While the dead victim’s father did not respond to the court’s decision on Wednesday, his lawyer Lisa Flynn told Australian Associated Press that her client suffers trauma as the appeals process drags.
Flynn said the victim’s father wants to know why the church, instead of helping the victims or their families, is backing a paedophile.
The surviving choirboy’s lawyer told the news agency they are awaiting the outcome of Pell’s appeal.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said it hopes the court’s ruling on Pell’s final appeal will bring clarity and resolution.