Australia’s High Court overturned Catholic Cardinal George Pell’s sexual abuse convictions Tuesday. Australian authorities have released Pell from custody.
In March 2019 a unanimous jury convicted Pell of abusing two choir boys in the 1990s. The Australian trial court sentenced Pell to six years in prison. Pell maintained an innocent plea throughout the trial. After the conviction, Cainal Pell appealed to the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria. The court upheld the sentence, and Pell appealed to Australia’s High Court. The High Court quashed the conviction.
Pell remarked in a statement after his release:
I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice. This has been remedied today with the High Court’s unanimous decision. I look forward to reading the judgment and reasons for the decision in detail. I hold no ill will toward my accuser, I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough. However my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church. The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not. The only basis for long term healing is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all. A special thanks for all the prayers and thousands of letters of support. I want to thank in particular my family for their love and support and what they had to go through; my small team of advisors; those who spoke up for me and suffered as a result; and all my friends and supporters here and overseas. Also my deepest thanks and gratitude to my entire legal team for their unwavering resolve to see justice prevail, to throw light on manufactured obscurity and to reveal the truth. Finally, I am aware of the current health crisis. I am praying for all those affected and our medical frontline personnel.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, praised Pell’s release. Additionally, Pope Francis compared the trial to Jesus’ persecution and called the sentence “unjust.”
Pell’s alleged victims have yet to comment.