The Vatican announces its own investigation of Cardinal Pell

Friday, 01 Mar, 2019

The Vatican has responded for the first time to news of Cardinal George Pell's conviction of child sex offences, issuing a statement through interim director of the Holy See press office Alessandro Gisotti.

He is due to be sentenced on March 13.

Pell was convicted in December of assaulting the two choirboys in the sacristy of Melbourne's Saint Patrick's Cathedral, but the verdict was only revealed Tuesday after a second trial against him was abandoned by prosecutors, allowing a gag order to be lifted.

Following a pre-sentencing hearing in Melbourne, Australia, the former close advisor to Pope Francis was taken away in police custody to spend his first night in jail, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

In his statement, the man said it had taken him years to understand the impact the assault had on his life.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, now Vatican finance chief, in 2012.

Pope Francis removed Pell as a member of his informal Cabinet in October previous year, and the Vatican confirmed he is no longer its economy minister. All prisoners are strip-searched on arrival and Pell, like all pedophiles, will be kept in protective custody, where he will remain alone for up to 23 hours a day.

Pell pleaded not guilty and has already filed an appeal.

Pell is expected to be sentenced in the next two weeks.

The Vatican treasurer was found guilty by the Melbourne court on December 11 of a year ago, after which his defence ceased calling for pardon through parole, at a hearing yesterday.

His defence team withdrew an application for a bail hearing at a separate court on Wednesday afternoon, aimed at keeping him free until his appeal was heard.

Two victim impact statements were presented to the hearing, one from the victim - who can not be named - who testified in Pell's trial and one from the father of the other victim who died in 2014.

Protesters hurled insults at Pell outside the court, yelling, "I hope you burn in hell!" and "You're a pedophile!" You're a paedophile. You're a criminal.

"The situation is therefore a nightmare for the Catholic Church".

"I see this as callous, brazen offending ... he did have in his mind some sense of impunity", he said.

Those consequences could include being defrocked or removed from the College of Cardinals.

Shine Lawyers attorney Lisa Flynn says the father, who like his son can not be named because it is illegal under Australian law to identify a victim of sexual assault, is planning to sue the church or Pell individually once his appeal is finalised.

Mr Agnew, who writes for the Irish paper The Sunday Independent, said he was not sure an institution, even one as powerful as the Catholic Church, could continue to withstand such bad publicity.

Prosecutors earlier said Pell had no remorse for or insight into his crimes and called for his immediate imprisonment.

Last July, Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals, after USA newspapers reported detailed accounts that he exposed himself and sexually molested two boys in his early years as a priest - accusations that spanned nearly five decades and were too old to legally prosecute.