The Catholic cleric, who served as a treasurer for the Vatican, faces a potential maximum prison sentence of 50 years.
George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic and once the third highest ranking official at the Vatican, was found guilty of child sexual abuse after a trial in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Although the jury had delivered the unanimous verdict on 11 December, the court had issued a suppression order which forced the announcing of verdict till Tuesday.
The offenses for which the jury found Pell guilty include him sexually penetrating a child under 16 and four other charges of acting indecently with a child under 16.
The offenses occurred in early 1997 and December 1996, just a few months after the inauguration of Pell as the archbishop of Melbourne.
The sentencing hearing will begin on Wednesday and could award Pell the maximum prison sentence of 50 years. The former Vatican official has filed an appeal.
History of George Pell
Before he was summoned back by the Australian law enforcement authorities to face the charges, Pell was serving as prefect for the secretariat for the economy of the Holy See, one of the senior most positions among Catholics in the world.
That means that not only was Pell one of the most trusted lieutenants of Pope Francis but he was also handpicked to manage the Vatican’s finances as well as root out corruption.
Throughout the duration of the trial, Pell has pleaded not guilty, with his lawyer claiming that he would “absolutely” appeal against the decision.
Yet, as evinced by the decision of the jury – which reached a unanimous verdict back in December – a lengthy prison sentence now looks an almost certainty.