Vatican Secretary of State calls Pell conviction 'shocking and painful'

Cardinal Pietro Parolin celebrates Mass with Catholic Action in St Peters Basilica April 27 2017 Credit Daniel Ibanez 1 CNA Cardinal Pietro Parolin in St. Peter's Basilica. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin Thursday called the conviction of Cardinal George Pell in Australia "shocking and painful."

Cardinal Pell, who formerly served as the prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, is currently in police custody awaiting sentencing on his conviction of five charges of sexual abuse of minors.

Pell's case "is an incentive to continue in the pope's line: to fight against this phenomenon and pay attention to the victims," Parolin told L'Osservatore Romano Feb. 28.

An earlier statement from the Vatican press office, released on Feb. 26 underscored the Holy See's commitment to the full judicial process playing out.

"Out of this respect, we await the outcome of the appeals process, recalling that Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence and has the right to defend himself until the last stage of appeal."

Cardinal Pell is appealing his conviction before Victoria County Court on five counts of child sexual abuse. He faces of maximum sentence of 50 years in prison. He expected to be sentenced in a hearing on March 13.

Last week, Victoria prosecutors dropped plans for a second trial for Pell concerning different allegations. A media gag imposed by the court ahead of that trial was subsequently lifted, allowing Australian media to report on the trial and conviction.

The gag was lifted on Feb. 26, the day after the conclusion of the Vatican's summit on sexual abuse and the protection of minors.

Cardinal Parolin said the three-day conference emphasised "a call for transparency and an ever clearer Gospel witness," as well as a greater awareness within the entire Church on the issue of clerical sexual abuse.

"It was moving to hear the victims," Parolin told journalists at a conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He added that the victim's stories, in particular, "left no one feeling indifferent."

Prior to his appointment to the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, Pell served as the Archbishop of Sydney and of Melbourne.

In October, Pope Francis removed Pell, along with Cardinal Javier Errazuriz and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, from the C9 Council of Cardinals charged with helping the pope draft a new constitution for the Holy See's governing structure, citing age as the reason for the removal.

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