In 2018, the cardinal was sentenced to 6 years in prison. As soon as he was acquitted he said he had "suffered from a profound injustice", but also that he had no "ill will" towards his accuser and that he did not want to add to the "hurt and bitterness" so many feel. In all these years, the Vatican has always maintained the presumption of innocence for Card. Pell.
Brisbane (AsiaNews) - Card. George Pell has been released from Barwon Prison, where he was serving a 6-year sentence for sexual abuse. Today the Supreme Court of Australia has declared him innocent of the crimes attributed to him.
The 78-year-old cardinal, former secretary of the economy at the Vatican, is the highest ranking personality in the Catholic hierarchy to have faced such allegations.
In a statement made public shortly after the Court's judgment, Card. Pell stressed that he had "suffered from a profound injustice", repaired today by the unanimous decision of the Court. He also said that he did not bear any "ill will" towards his accuser and did not want to add to the "hurt and bitterness" that so many feel.
The trial of Card. Pell took place as countless accusations and complaints emerged in Australia against priests and nuns involved in abuse, including sexual abuse. For many of the cardinal’s supporters, it appeared as if he were a scapegoat. Others point out that on the backs of these accusations he was marginalized by the group that was to reform the economy in the Vatican, leaving free hand to those who instead wanted to use the financial structures of the Holy See for less noble purposes.
In the declaration, Card. Pell says: “However my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church. The point was only if I had committed those horrible crimes or not, and I did not commit them”.
Card. Pell was charged in 2017 and convicted two years ago of an crime dating back to the 1990s: he allegedly abused two altar boys in the sacristy, immediately after Sunday mass in St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. The only accuser was one of the two former altar boys; the other had died in 2014 and retracted the charges before he died.
In 2018, the Victoria Court sentenced the cardinal, not unanimously. But the cardinal's lawyers wanted to appeal saying that this court had not taken into consideration the evidence that exonerated their client.
Finally, today, the Supreme Court, almost a month after the hearing, has pronounced a unanimous sentence. It highlighted that the Victoria Court did not take into consideration "the reasonable possibility that the offense had not taken place" and did not look at the contradictions that existed between some of the testimonies and the accuser's report. This is why Card. Pell has been totally cleared of the charges.
In all these years, the Vatican has always maintained the presumption of innocence for Card. Pell, until the conclusion of all the stages of justice.