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The most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse, Cardinal George Pell, has been released after spending 13 months in prison for a six-year sentence. According to Australian Associated Press (AAP), the Australian cardinal of the Catholic Church arrived at a Melbourne monastery on April 7 after his release from Barwon Prison.
In a statement, Pell said he held no “ill will” towards his accuser and has thanked family, friends and supporters. “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. I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice. This has been remedied today with the High Court’s unanimous decision,” Pell said.
Pell was the former finance minister of Pope Francis and became archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne.
Court’s decision upheld
When asked about the ruling during a press conference in Canberra on COVID-19 modeling and rent assistance measures, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the high court’s decision must be respected.
“The High Court has made its decision and I know for many Australians the memory of things – completely unrelated to that case which has now been addressed by the High Court – just the mere discussion of these topics brings back great hurt and when these things are raised my thoughts are always with them,” he said. “The High Court, the highest court in the land, has made its decision and it must be respected.”
Alleged previous misconduct
Pell’s sexual misconduct allegations came to light after a man, now in his 30s, claimed the cleric abused him and another choirboy at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.
The father of the second choirboy who died in 2014 has expressed his shock after the court’s decision. “I have just spoken to our client who says he is “gutted” by the High Court’s decision to grant George Pell leave to appeal his conviction. This is a sad day for him. He was hopeful that it will all be over today as he continues to be re-traumatized by the unending legal action. His pain and suffering remain raw and unresolved,” said Lisa Flynn who represents the father of the deceased.