One of the most powerful men in the Roman Catholic Church, Australian Cardinal George Pell, 77, has been found guilty of multiple historical child sex offenses at a secret trial in Melbourne.
Pell is almost certain to face prison after a jury found him guilty of one charge of sexual penetration of a child and four charges of an indecent act with or in the presence of a child in the late 1990s.
The conviction of Pell, the Vatican treasurer and a close adviser to Pope Francis, will send shockwaves through the church, which is already reeling from accusations of sexual abuse committed by priests worldwide.
Pell is the most senior Catholic official to be found guilty of child sex offenses to date. His conviction brings the escalating international controversy around the abuse of children in Catholic institutions straight to the doors of the Holy See.
A court order banning media reporting of Pell’s five-week long trial, which began in November 2018, was lifted by Chief Judge Peter Kidd on Tuesday. The prosecution’s case hinged on the testimony of one man, who said Pell sexually abused him and another boy in Melbourne’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral after mass one Sunday.
The second victim later died from a drug overdose having never revealed the abuse to anyone, while the surviving accuser can not be identified under Australian law governing sex abuse victims.