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Vatican treasurer convicted of sexually abusing 13-year-old boys

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MELBOURNE: Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of five charges of child sexual abuse committed more than two decades ago against 13-year-old boys in Australia - the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of child sex offences.

The guilty verdict was made public yesterday following the lifting of a court suppression order on Pell's 2018 trial, after a second abuse case against him was dropped by the prosecution.

The downfall of the Vatican's 77-year-old No.3 official brings to the heart of the papal administration a scandal over clerical abuse that has ravaged the Church's credibility over the last three decades.

A jury in the County Court of Victoria in Melbourne found Pell guilty on Dec 11 last year following a four-week trial.

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. One of the two victims died in 2014.

Each of the five offences carries a maximum 10 years in jail. Pell's lawyers have filed an appeal against the verdict on three grounds, which if successful could lead to a retrial.

"Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so," Pell's lawyer, Paul Galbally, said outside the court.

Pell, who remains on bail, left the court yesterday without speaking to reporters, who virtually mobbed him as he walked from the courthouse steps to a waiting car. - REUTERS