Canberra: Australian Cardinal George Pell, once the Vatican’s number three, was sentenced to six years in prison for sexually abusing two choirboys in the late 1990s.
The former Vatican treasurer is the most senior Catholic figure ever to be found guilty of sexual offences against children, CNN reported.
A former senior adviser to Pope Francis, Pell showed no reaction when Chief Judge Peter Kidd handed down his sentence in a hearing broadcast live worldwide from Victoria’s County Court in central Melbourne.
The judge said that Pell will have to serve three years and eight months of his sentence before being able to ask for parole, which he could do as of October 2022.
Pell, 77, was found guilty in December of one count of sexual penetration of a child and four counts of committing an indecent act with a child after a secret five-week trial. A jury that time had ruled that Pell abused the 13-year-old choir boys in a Melbourne cathedral in 1996.
He was arrested on February 27. The cardinal maintains his innocence and has lodged an appeal.
On Wednesday, Judge Kidd said Pell’s attack on the victims was “breathtakingly arrogant” adding that the cardinal had assaulted the boys with “callous indifference to the victims’ distress”.
But the judge said Pell was “not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church”. Among other elements, the judge ordered that the cardinal will be placed on a register of sexual offenders for the rest of his life.
Outside the court, survivors of Catholic sex abuse who had attended the hearing were divided on the sentence, according to CNN. Some felt it was too light, while others were happy to see justice being done. “I would have been happy with one month, one week,” one said.
In a statement after the sentencing, the surviving victim said it was hard for him “to take comfort in this outcome”.
“There is no rest for me,” he said through his lawyer Vivian Waller. “I’m doing my best to hold myself and my family together.”
Pell’s defence has already appealed the sentence, through an application that will be addressed in June to decide whether or not to proceed.