Cardinal George Pell, a former Vatican treasurer has been convicted of sexually abusing teenage choir boys 22 years ago.
George Pell, who was archbishop at the time was sentenced to six years in prison, making him the most senior Catholic figure ever to be convicted of sexual offences against children.
In a Melbourne cathedral in 1996, the 77-year-old abused two 13-year-old choir boys, a jury ruled in December after he caught them drinking sacramental wine.
He was also found to be guilty of abusing one of the two boys in a corridor more than three weeks later.
It was unanimously decided to convict Pell on one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, in addition to four counts of performing an indecent act on a child under 16.
Details of his verdict in December were withheld from the public until February this year to refrain from prejudicing any future trials.
Justice Kidd told the court Pell had committed the first offences on the teenage boys after giving a Sunday mass service, stating some offences carried out had a particularly “nasty element” as victims were assaulted in front of one another.
“You were the archbishop of St Patrick’s Cathedral – no less – and you sexually abused two choir boys within that cathedral,” he said.
He added that Pell had even told his victims “to be quiet because they were crying” but that the former Cardinal should not be “made a scapegoat” for other faults in the Catholic Church.
The former close advisor to the Pope, was handed a six-year custodial sentence and will serve three years and 8 months of a non-parole period subsequently.
One of the victims who cannot be named gave testimony in court and said in a statement read by his lawyer, that he welcomed the sentence but it was difficult “to feel the gravity of this moment”.
He added: “There is no rest for me. Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal.”
The defence maintained Pell’s assertion of innocence and challenged the jury’s decision, suggesting it was “unreasonable” to rely so heavily on the statement of one victim.
But due to the other victim dying of a drug overdose in 2014, only one testimony could be heard.
The appeal will be heard by a court on June 5.