An Australian court in December found Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys in a Melbourne cathedral in 1996, Reuters reported on Tuesday. The verdict was not made public until Tuesday because of a court order.
Pell’s lawyer said the cardinal has claimed to be innocent of the charges. His sentencing hearings will be held from Wednesday. Pell, considered the third-ranking official at the Vatican, has moved the court against the conviction and is currently out on bail.
Prosecutors accused Pell of forcing two boys, whom he found drinking communion wine in a cathedral room, into “indecent acts”. He allegedly abused one of them in 1997 again. One of the accusers died in 2014.
Pell is the highest-ranking Catholic official to have been charged in the sexual abuse scandal that has hit the Church in recent years. Pell has also faced allegations that he covered up complaints of child sexual abuse by priests.
The verdict was made public soon after Pope Francis’ summit at Vatican City on preventing sexual abuse by the clergy where Cardinals attending the event called for “a new culture of accountability”.