Former top adviser to Pope Francis and Vatican’s economy minister Cardinal George Pell, above, has been convicted by an Australian court of sexually raping a choirboy and molesting another in the early 1990s in a Melbourne cathedral where he was serving as a bishop.
Pell is the most senior Catholic official ever convicted of sexual abuse.
The verdict comes just two days after Pope Francis likened sexual abuse by priests to “human sacrifice” at a conference in the Vatican to address such cases in Catholic Churches.
A sentencing hearing is set to start on Feb 27.
Pell has consistently maintained his innocence during the trial which began in May last year. His lawyers are planning to appeal the verdict.
Although a jury found Pell guilty of child sex crimes on Dec 11 last year, media could not report it because of a gagging order from the start of the trial. The order was lifted on Monday (Feb 25) after a second trial related to other sexual allegations against Pell was dropped.
People gathered in front of the court called Pell a monster and said he should rot in hell as he was led out of the court room following the conviction.
During the trial, the jury heard a video recording of a testimony by one of the choirboys who described how Pell orally raped him and fondled his genitals while masturbating.
The survivor spoke of the shame, loneliness, depression he had to suffer following the abuse. The second victim died of a heroin overdose.
The Vatican said the verdict was painful news.
While expressing his shock over Pell’s conviction, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the justice system has shown that no Australian is above the law.
After a five-year probe, a royal commission report issued last year said that tens of thousands of children had been sexually abused in Australia’s institutions.