Catholic Church's third most senior cleric Cardinal George Pell - known as the 'Vatican's treasurer' - is found GUILTY of sexually abusing two choir boys inside a cathedral
- Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of sexually assaulting two choir boys
- Pell, an Australian cleric, is the Catholic Church's third most senior clergyman
- The 77-year-old is the most senior Catholic to be charged with sexual offences
- He is on leave from his position in the Vatican and will appeal the convictions
- An Australian court order prevents publication of the verdicts in his homeland
By George Martin For Mailonline
Published: 19:19 EST, 12 December 2018 | Updated: 19:43 EST, 12 December 2018
Pell pictured in Melbourne last week ahead of the verdict today
The third most powerful man in the Catholic Church has been found guilty of sexually abusing two boys in the late 1990s.
Cardinal George Pell was unanimously convicted by an Australian jury on Tuesday of sexually abusing two choir boys in the country while serving as Archbishop of Melbourne.
The 77-year-old, who is often referred to as the Vatican's treasurer, was reportedly found guilty of four counts of indecent assault and one count of rape after three days of deliberations.
Pell became the highest Vatican official ever to stand trial for sex abuse as he took the stand for the case, which was conducted under a gag order preventing him from being named in Australia.
Pope Francis on Wednesday announced the Cardinal would be removed from his cabinet following the announcement of the verdict.
The Vatican made no mention of the accusations against Pell in explaining his departures, and said for now he would not be replaced from the 'C-9 group'.
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Pell faced trial for two historical counts of sexual abuse which allegedly took place while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s
Pell has reportedly been removed from the Pope's inner circle today, although the Vatican failed to say whether it was related to the conviction
The Cardinal, who was granted a leave of absence from his role last year as the trial got underway, reportedly abused the boys while they were singing in the choir at St. Patrick's cathedral in a room within the confines of the church.
Sources also claimed the abuse took place after Pell introduced a compensation scheme for clerical sexual abuse victims known in Australia as the 'Melbourne Response', which he established in 1996.
The trial, known as the 'Cathedral trial', was declared a mistrial earlier this year after a hung jury, but was immediately rescheduled.
Tuesday's verdict in the County Court of Victoria was a retrial of the original case - and resulted in his conviction.
A second trial into Pell's alleged abuse known as 'the swimmers trial' is due to get underway early next year.
Pell walks with a heavy Police guard to the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on July 26, 2017 last year as the initial trial got underway
That trial is expected to hear evidence that Pell 'sexually offended' two men when they were boys playing games in a swimming pool in Ballarat, Victoria in the 1970s.
A court in Victoria heard in March that Pell, who has denied all of the allegations, would stay in the pool after swimming laps and play with children.
Pell had repeatedly and vehemently denied the accusations against him and Pope Francis had granted him a leave of absence to return to Australia to defend himself.
The judge who heard Pell's case has continued a gag order on details of the cardinal's trial and guilty verdicts being published in his homeland.
That order, which was applied for by prosecutors, was granted to 'prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice.'
Pell has served as the Vatican's treasurer since being appointed to the role in 2014 by Pope Francis
Pell has surrendered his passport as part of his bail conditions and is not permitted to leave Australia.
The cardinal was named the Vatican's Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, making him the third highest-ranking cleric in Rome.
Before being called to the Vatican, Pell served as Archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2014 and was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001.
He was ordained in 1966 and made a cardinal in 2003.
Victorian police charged Pell with the sexual assault offences in June last year when he was in Rome.
Pell, who was represented by attorney Robert Richter, QC, stated at a press conference at the time he would return to Australia to answer the charges and he was 'looking forward, finally, to having my day in court'.
'I'm innocent of those charges,' he said at the time. 'They are false.'
Pope Benedict XVI attends his weekly audience with archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell in Saint Peter's Square in 2006
Who is Cardinal George Pell? All you need to know about the Catholic church sex abuse claims
Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, will stand trial over historical sex offence charges after Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington found substantial evidence.
Pell’s lawyers argued that accusations he sexually abused multiple people in his home state of Victoria are untrue and should be dismissed.
Pope Francis’s former finance minister denies all charges and it was decided that the former Vatican treasurer would face trial after a four-week long hearing in the County Court.
Here’s everything you need to know about who George Pell is, the allegations, the trial and the charges made against the former Vatican treasurer.
George Pell, Australia’s highest ranking Catholic, will stand trial over sex offence charges
Who is George Pell?
Born on June 8, 1941 in Ballarat, Victoria, George Pell is Australia’s most senior Catholic and held many significant positions after being ordained in 1966.
Notably, his most recent position has been as the treasurer of the Vatican and the Holy See in Rome, Italy. The role puts George Pell third in charge after the Pope.
Prior to this, the Cardinal was the Archbishop of Sydney and the Archbishop of Melbourne; in the latter position, Pell set up the ‘Melbourne Response’ diocesan protocol to handle and investigate complaints of sexual abuse.
While this protocol was the first of its kind, it garnered criticism because of Pell’s involvement and led to claims that he had knowledge of sexual abuse as a young priest, but also criticised him for procedures he established for handling cases.
On June 29, 2017, George Pell was charged with multiple historical sexual assault offences, but denied all charges. After this, the Pope permitted him to leave the Vatican and return to Australia to defend himself at a committal hearing.
Once believed to be in the running to replace the current Pope after his death, Pell is now the highest-ranking Catholic official to be facing trial for historical sexual offence allegations.
What is George Pell charged with?
Details of the nature and number of charges have not been revealed for legal reasons but in turn, has protected sexual abuse complainants from being identified.
Reporting on the committal hearing, held on March 5, 2018, proved to be difficult because of this reason, as it was closed to the media while evidence was given, but this is standard when sexual offence allegations are involved.
In 2012, Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard ordered a formal inquiry into historical child sexual abuse and the Catholic Church was scrutinised. Pell was one of the first to give evidence during public hearings and there had been no suggestion that he was a perpetrator.
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