Australia’s Supreme Court will issue its verdict on Tuesday on Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of his pedophile conviction.
The 78-year-old former secretary of the Vatican’s economy was sentenced in March 2019 to six years in prison for sexual violence against two teenagers in 1996 and 1997 in the cathedral of Melbourne (southeast), of which he was archbishop.
Pell, who participated in the election of two popes, is the highest-ranking person in the Catholic Church to be convicted of pedophilia. He has always claimed his innocence.
Court magistrates may dismiss the appeal, order a new trial, or set aside any sentence.
The ruling on the case, one of the most followed in Australia, will be published in Brisbane in front of an almost empty room due to the social distancing measures adopted to combat the coronavirus pandemic. A maximum of three people may attend.
A very different image than the previous court hearings attended by media from around the world and many supporters and detractors of the cardinal.
The case opposes a former altar boy, currently in his thirties, to Pell, who was one of Pope Francis’ close advisers and even assisted in the church’s response to pedophilia scandals.
The second victim of the prelate died in 2014 of an overdose, without having reported an assault.
Since his conviction, the cardinal has been relieved of his post as chief financial officer of the Vatican and has lost his post at C9 (the council of nine cardinals who help the pope reform the curia, the Vatican government).
However, he remains a member of the clergy. The Vatican indicated that it would not open an investigation into his conduct until all legal remedies were exhausted.