Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s third most powerful official, was found guilty on Tuesday of sexually abusing two choir boys in the late 1990s, a decision that makes him the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to face criminal convictions.
According to The Daily Beast, a jury in Australia returned a unanimous guilty verdict after deliberating for more than three days on the case. The judge ordered the criminal trial to be conducted under a gag order that prevented any details of the trial being made public, the report continues.
The judge placed a suppression order on all press coverage in Australia right before trial proceedings were set to begin in June, according to the judge’s orders reviewed by The Daily Beast. The order was requested by prosecutors and granted to “prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice,” the order reads, according to the report.
Pell, 77, who is the Vatican’s finance chief and the highest Vatican official to ever go stand trial on sex abuse charges, left Rome in June 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne, the report continues.
Earlier this year, what came to be known as “the cathedral trial” was declared a mistrial after a hung jury, the report contends. Its subsequent retrial concluded this week after months of proceedings.
— Grace Episcopal Alexandria Survivors (@GraceAlexWatch) December 12, 2018
According to The Daily Beast, two former choir boys accused Pell of sexually abusing them when he was archbishop of Melbourne in the ’90s. The boys, who sang in the choir at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said they suffered the abuses by Pell in a room in the confines of the church, the report continues.
However, the Melbourne case isn’t the only for which Pell is facing criminal charges. Australian police confirmed they were formally investigating complaints about criminal offenses alleged to have occurred in Ballarat, Victoria, in the 1970s, Australia’s ABC News reported in June 2017. Pell has maintained his innocence and denied all accusations against him since the investigation opened.
Pell is reportedly set to stand a second trial, known as “the swimmers trial,” early next year, according to The Daily Beast. This second trial will determine whether Pell “sexually offended” two boys who had been playing games in a swimming pool in Ballarat in the ’70s when Pell was a priest in the area.
Upon being accused of this crime in July 2016, Pell said that the accusations were part of a smear campaign by the media, according to the ABC News report.
“The allegations are untrue, I deny them absolutely,” Pell said, as quoted in the report.
Cardinal George Pell has released a statement following announcement of charges by Victoria Police pic.twitter.com/WW0FCwBClp
— ABC News (@abcnews) June 29, 2017