George Pell, who was once Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, has been sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of child sex abuse.
Back in December, 77-year-old Cardinal George Pell convicted, facing 50 years in prison for molesting two choir boys during his time as the archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s. The conviction stemmed from the ’96 assault of two 13-year-old boys, which reportedly occurred after he caught them drinking sacramental wine in the rear room of Melbourne’s St. Patrick Cathedral. Pell also was found guilty of indecently assaulting one of the boys in a corridor a month later, NBC reports.
On Wednesday morning, Pell was finally sentenced in Australia for the crimes.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd of Victoria’s County Court said Pell’s sentencing was greatly based around Pell’s age and history of cardiac issues. Kidd claimed there wasn’t a high risk of Pell reoffending again, which is why his years in prison were reduced.
After the conviction went public, Pope Francis’ chief aide called it “shocking and painful.” Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin also said the Pell case “is an incentive to continue the pope’s line: Fighting against this phenomenon and paying attention to the victims,” according to the Crux, a Catholic news site. One of Pell’s victims testified during the trial and explained that he’s been dealing with “shame, loneliness, depression, and struggle” in the wake of the abuse. He opened up about how he has struggled to understand the impact the assault had on his life.
In turn, the Vatican also announced it would launch an investigation into the allegations. However, Pell and his lawyers have maintained his innocence and are looking to appeal his conviction on at the Victoria Court of Appeal on June 5.
In the meantime, Pell must serve a minimum of three years and eight months before he is eligible for parole. He will also be a registered sex offender for the remainder of his life.