Vatican issues statement following Cardinal Pell’s conviction

The Vatican is calling Cardinal George Pell’s conviction of sexual abuse of minors’  as “painful”, saying it “shocked many people”.

In a statement, the Vatican acknowledges the “utmost respect for the Australian judicial authorities” and says the Vatican is waiting for the outcome of the appeals process.

It says, (Pell) “has the right to defend himself until the last stage of appeal”.

“At the same time, it is important to recall that Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors,” the statement says.

“[Pell] has cooperated in the past with Australian authorities (for example, in his depositions before the Royal Commission); has supported the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; and finally, as a diocesan bishop in Australia, has introduced systems and procedures both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse”.

The statement also confirmed the arrangements barring Pell from public ministry and from contact with minors during the course of the legal process.

Vatican opens investigation

Following his conviction, the Vatican says it will be opening its own investigation into the accusations.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) will now handle the case following the procedure and within the time established by canonical norm,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said.

Just when the proposed investigation will take place has not been announced. The Vatican says the investigation could lead to a full trial or an abbreviated “administrative process”.

When a deacon, priest or bishop is accused of abuse, the first phase of the investigation generally is carried out by the diocese where the abuse is alleged to have occurred.

If the allegations are found to be credible, the case is handed over to the CDF.

Last October Pell resigned his position as head of the Secretariat for the Economy, where he oversaw the Vatican’s finances.

His successor’s name has not yet been announced.

The County Court of Victoria, Australia, (December) found Pell guilty of five counts of child sexual abuse against two former choristers in Melbourne Cathedral in 1996.

Pell’s guilty verdict was revealed in Australia on Tuesday this week after a court suppression order was dropped.

He spent his first night behind bars on Wednesday and will be sentenced on 13 March.

Pell, who has continuously said he is innocent, plans to appeal the verdict.

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