February 26, 2019
By Frances D’Emilio
The Vatican on Tuesday insisted on Australian Cardinal George Pell’s right to further defend himself after being convicted of molesting two choirboys in his homeland, but said Pope Francis was keeping in place local church restrictions forbidding one of his most trusted advisers from having contact with children while appeals run their course.
Acting Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti read a brief statement that called the news of the 77-year-old’s prelate’s conviction “painful.” He later tweeted confirmation that Pell “is no longer” the Holy See’s economy chief. Pell’s 5-year mandate was due to expire this month, and Francis had not been expected to renew it.
Gisotti took no questions from reporters about the Australian court’s verdict, which was delivered unanimously in December and appealed by Pell last week.
Due to a court order, news of the verdict couldn’t be published until Tuesday.
Pell risks a maximum prison term of 50 years for the conviction of the charges that he sexually abused the boys in a cathedral in the 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne. Sentencing hearings were set to begin in Melbourne on Wednesday.
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