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Australian Cardinal found guilty of sexual offences


IANS Melbourne
Australian Cardinal George Pell, who used to be the third most powerful figure in the Vatican, was pronounced guilty of child sexual abuses by a jury in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Pell, the highest-ranking priest of the Australian Catholic Church, raped a 13-year-old altar boy in the 1990s and sexually abused another boy of the same age at the prestigious St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, Efe news reported.
The verdict was already issued on December 11 but could not be disclosed in Australia as a suppression order had been issued by the court, which was lifted on Tuesday.
The sentence was made public after the Vatican held a summit to address pedophilia in the Church, in which Pope Francis on Sunday.
Chief judge Peter Kidd was expected to issue a sentence within the next two weeks in the case, as Pell is currently free on bail and could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The five charges that Pell, aged 77, was found guilty of date back to a Sunday in 1996 after he was officiating a solemn mass as archbishop of Melbourne.
One of the charges was for committing sexual penetration of a child under 16 and the four others for committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child under 16.
The verdict comes after months of a complicated judicial process which was kept secret to protect the presumption of innocence of Pell and the abandonment of a second trial for the alleged abuse of minors in a swimming pool in Ballarat, his hometown, in the 1970s.
The charges in this second trial have been dropped after the judge decided that there was problems with the evidence.
Pell has already been dismissed as the Vatican's chief financial officer and Pope Francis expelled him from his inner circle, known as the Group of Nine, or C-9 shortly after the verdict in December 2018.
The Pope offered eight guidelines to eradicate the "monstrosity" of child abuse, but the lack of concrete measures disappointed many victims.
Pell's legal team has said that it plans to appeal the verdict.

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First Published: Feb 26 2019 | 8:28 AM IST

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