Australia convicts top Vatican cleric over child sex crimes

Cardinal George Pell walks from a car in Melbourne. (AFP pic)

MELBOURNE: An Australian court has found Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican Treasurer and a former top adviser to Pope Francis, guilty on five charges of child sexual offences committed more than two decades ago against 13-year-old boys.

The verdict was made public on Tuesday following the lifting of a suppression order on the case. A jury in the Country Court of Victoria in Melbourne had found Pell guilty on Dec 11 last year following a four-week trial.

Pell becomes the most senior Catholic clergyman worldwide to be convicted for child sex offences. He had pleaded not guilty to all five charges.

He was convicted of five sexual offences committed against the 13-year-old choir boys 22 years earlier in the priests’ sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, where Pell was archbishop.

Sentencing is expected in the first week of March.