He is the highest ranking official in the world Catholic Church to be condemned for sexual abuse of minors. And he is not just anyone, but one of the men in the circle of confidence of Pope Francis. Australian Cardinal George Pell, still prefect of the Secretariat of Economy of the Holy See (a sort of 'superminister' of finance), has been condemned by a Melbourne court for sexually abusing two altar boys in the 1990s.
A process that has been wrapped in absolute silence, since the court had decreed the 'gag law' on the procedure, of which it has been practically impossible to report since last May it was known that the cardinal was going to be prosecuted. The concrete sentence will be known in February.
According to some Australian media and American Magazine, the verdict would have been unanimous, after three days of deliberations. Pell is guilty. During a meeting with the press, the spokesman of the Vatican, Greg Burke, expressed his "maximum respect" for the Australian Justice while waiting to officially hear the sentence against Pell, and stressed the need to respect the secrecy of the trial.
"The Holy See has the utmost respect for the Australian judicial authorities, we are aware that there is an ongoing process that imposes silence and we respect that order," said Burke, who confirmed that the Pope has dispensed with the Australian cardinal and the Chilean cardinal Errazuriz. , both sprinkled by polemics related to pedophilia, from their council of advisers.
Last year, when accusations against the cardinal came to light, Pell requested a dispensation from the Pope to travel to Australia and defend himself. A dispensation that, according to the Holy See, "remains". Pell's stay on the southern continent has also been peppered with controversy, as the cardinal stayed in residences paid for by the diocese. Despite this, the Archdiocese of Melbourne has ensured that the religious would pay out of his pocket his defense.
Pell had been accused of sexually abusing two altar boys during a trip in the 1990s, when he was a bishop in Ballarat. The prelate has always strongly denied the accusations, and his lawyer, Robert Richter, said in 2017 that there is "bulky" evidence to show that "what was alleged is impossible."
The trial against Pell began after the cardinal testified on three occasions as a witness to the Royal Commission that investigated the response of Australia's public and religious institutions to the sexual abuse of minors committed within it.
According to the Commission, the Catholic Church received complaints from 4,500 people for alleged abuse of children committed by some 1,880 members of the institution, especially priests, between 1980 and 2015, although some cases date back to the 1920s. However, the The Commission did not investigate the alleged cases of Pell's pedophilia.