February 26, 2019
By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic clergyman worldwide to be convicted for child sex offences, will on Wednesday return to court for a sentence plea hearing.
Pell – a former top adviser to Pope Francis – was in December found guilty of five charges of child sexual offences committed more than two decades ago against 13-year-old boys.
Pell denies the allegations and lawyers have lodged an appeal, which if successful could lead to a retrial. The verdict was made public on Tuesday after prosecutors dropped a second abuse case against Pell.
Each of the five offences carries a maximum 10 years in jail.
While a final sentence is not due on Wednesday, Pell will return to court in Melbourne where the judge is expected to hear arguments on a prison sentence.
Pell, who has been out on bail throughout his trial, could be remanded in custody until his sentence is decided.
Pell’s appearance is expected to draw large crowds, focusing global attention once more on the conviction of the high-ranking Vatican official.
The Catholic church is under mounting pressure to deal with a growing child sexual abuse crisis, following scandals in the United States, Chile, Germany and Australia.
The pope ended a conference on sexual abuse on Sunday, calling for an “all out battle” against a crime that should be “erased from the face of the earth”.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Howard Goller)