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Third-Ranking Vatican Official Convicted of Sexually Abusing Choir Boys

Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by Australian police as he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, October 6, 2017. (Mark Dadswell/Reuters )

Cardinal George Pell, the third-ranking official in the Catholic Church, has been convicted in Australia on charges related to the sexual abuse of two choir boys in the 1990s, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

Pell, the Church’s finance chief and the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be tried for sexual abuse, left Rome in June 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne. A judge granted the prosecutor’s request for a gag order ahead of the trial in order to “prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice.”

Two choir boys accused Pell of abusing them in a backroom at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where they sang, when he was the archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

Pell is due to be tried again in the coming months for allegedly abusing two other boys at a swimming pool in Victoria in the 1970s, when he was a priest there, according to the Guardian.

The Australian Daily Telegraph hinted at the Tuesday verdict on its homepage while mocking that country’s censorship rules, which prevent the details of criminal proceedings from being made public.

The verdict comes at the end of a year rife with reports of widespread sexual misconduct by members of the Catholic clergy. A Pennsylvania grand-jury report released in August exposed the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by 301 priests in Pennsylvania churches over 70 years.

Following the release of the report, Pope Francis asked Catholics to forgive the Church’s failure to confront the “culture of death” fostered by predatory clergy.

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