Cardinal found guilty of sexual offences

Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of sexual offences in Australia, making him the highest-ranking Catholic figure to receive such a conviction.

Pell abused two choir boys in Melbourne’s cathedral in 1996, a jury found. He had pleaded not guilty.

As Vatican treasurer, the 77-year-old Australian was widely seen as the Church’s third most powerful official.

Pell is due to face sentencing hearings from Wednesday. He has lodged an appeal against his conviction.

His trial was heard twice last year because a first jury failed to reach a verdict. The verdict was handed down in December, but it could not be reported until now for legal reasons.

A second jury unanimously convicted him of one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16.

Pell was swarmed by media and heckled by onlookers as he left a court on Tuesday.

The Vatican later confirmed that Pell was prohibited from public ministry, and had been banned from having contact with minors. He has to abide by these rules until any appeal is over.

They added that while the ruling was “painful”, and the Church has the “utmost respect” for the Australian authorities, Pell has the right to “defend himself until the last level” of the judicial process.