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BREAKING: Cardinal George Pell found guilty of child sexual abuse

Australia's most senior Catholic has been charged with five counts.
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Trigger warning: This post deals with sexual assault

Cardinal George Pell has been charged with five counts of child sexual abuse in a Melbourne court.

On 11 December in Melbourne’s county court, the jury unanimously found the former Vatican treasurer guilty after three and a half days deliberating, but Australian media were unable to report about it until now due to a suppression order.

George Pell was the nation’s most senior Catholic figure. (Image: Getty Images)

George Pell, who was once Australia’s most senior Catholic figure, was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16 and also four charges of committing an indecent act with a child under the age of 16.

The offences occurred in December 1996 and early 1997 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, months after Pell was inaugurated as archbishop of Melbourne.

The Guardian reports that he has been out on bail since the date of the verdict and is recovering from knee surgery, but will be sentenced on Wednesday 27th February.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, there was “an audible gasp” in the courtroom when the jury found Pell guilty back in December.

They added that the cardinal “pursed his lips and stared at the floor, frowning, as he sat in the dock while the guilty verdicts were read out.”

Pell’s defence barrister, Robert Richter QC, says he will “absolutely” appeal.

For three years, Cardinal Pell was one of the most senior Catholic figures in the world and one of Pope Francis’s most trusted advisers, serving as the Vatican City’s treasurer and overseeing finances.

Cardinal George Pell, child sex abuse charges

Cardinal Pell “pursed his lips and stared at the floor, frowning, as he sat in the dock while the guilty verdicts were read out.” (Image: Getty Images)

While Pope Francis is yet to publicly speak out about the verdict, just two days after Pell was found guilty in December, the Vatican announced that two other cardinals as well as Cardinal Pell had been removed from the pontiff’s council of advisers.

The victims in December 1996 and early 1997 were two 13-year-old choirboys who were assaulted after Sunday mass and while Pell was robed.

During the 1996 incident, the two boys sneaked into the sacristy – a room where priests dress for mass – and were drinking sacramental wine when Pell walked in.

Dressed in his Archbishop’s robes, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that Pell told the boys they were in trouble and then exposed his penis, pushing one of the boys close to it before turning to the second boy and putting his penis in the boy’s mouth. Pell then masturbated as he fondled the second boy’s genitals.

Then in 1997, Pell pushed one of the boys against a wall in a cathedral hallway and squeezed the boy’s genitals.

It was the second boy, now 35, who first made allegations to police in 2015 and confessed that the offending was “something I’ve carried for the whole of my life”.

Pell’s other victim died in 2014 after an accidental heroin overdose. At the time, both boys did not report the crime.

Readers who are seeking assistance can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.

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