Disgraced Cardinal Pell to receive final verdict

Pell is the highest-ranking Catholic Church official ever convicted of child sex crimes. (AP pic)

BRISBANE: Australia’s High Court said Thursday it will rule on Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against child sex abuse convictions on April 7, giving the senior cleric another chance clear his name and exit jail.

The 78-year-old former Vatican treasurer is trying to overturn a six-year sentence for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys in the 1990s.

Pell, who once helped elect popes, is the highest-ranking Catholic Church official ever convicted of child sex crimes. He maintains his innocence.

Legal experts have struggled to predict the progression of the high-profile case, as it threw up one surprise after another.

Judges could yet deny Pell’s appeal, order a retrial or quash his conviction altogether.

The case relied largely on the testimony of Pell’s surviving victim. The second choirboy – who is not known to have ever spoken of the abuse – died of a drug overdose in 2014. Neither man can be identified for legal reasons.