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Card. Pell found guilty of five counts of sexual abuse


Australian Cardinal George Pell, 77, has been found guilty of five charges of child sex abuse. He is the most senior official in the Catholic Church to ever be charged with this crime. 

While he was found guilty in December, a block placed on the case by the Victoria state County Court forbade all reporting on the case until Feb. 26. 

When accusations came up, Pope Francis gave him a leave of absence to prepare his defense. Before leaving, the cardinal affirmed of his innocence. 

CARD. GEORGE PELL
June 29, 2017
"I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

One year before, coming back from Poland, Pope Francis said he didn't wanted to interfere with the process prematurely.

POPE FRANCIS
July 31, 2016
“It would not be good for me to pass judgment for or against Cardinal Pell, for I would then be passing judgment prematurely. See what the justice system decides. Once it has spoken, then I will speak.”

The court process was long, with allegations that he assaulted two choirboys in 1996 after celebrating Mass, when he was just named archbishop of Melbourne. The two supposed victims were 13 at the time. The facts were reported to police in 2015.

Wednesday he is expected to return to court to face sentencing hearings. Each charge is accompanied by a 10-year jail sentence, adding up to a possible 50 years in prison. Cardinal Pell has filed an appeal and remains on bail. 

The accusations come after two important events for the Vatican: the defrocking of McCarrick after being found guilty of a continuous life of abuse, and the four-day Summit on Sexual Abuse with leaders of every bishops conference from around the world. 

The President of the Australian Bishops Conference, Mark Coleridge, issued a statement about Pell saying the charges have “shocked” many in Australia and the world. The bishops affirmed their respect for the Australian legal system, while asking them to “consider the appeal.”