The Australian High Court granted Pell's petition for special leave to appeal on April 7. In the decision, the seven justices unanimously found that there was "no evidence" to support the accuser's narrative beyond his own perceived credibility by the jury, and that, "acting rationally on the whole of the evidence," the jury could not have avoided reasonable doubt about Pell's innocence.
"Plainly they did," the justices concluded.
"Making full allowance for the advantages enjoyed by the jury," the High Court said, "there is a significant possibility in relation to [the] charges... that an innocent person has been convicted."
The decision markes an end to a process which began in 2013, when police in Victoria opened Operation Tethering, an open-ended investigation into possible crimes committed by Pell, despite there being no accusations or criminal complaints against him at that time.
The following year, in 2014, senior police officers in Victoria discussed via internal email how developments in the Pell investigation could be used to deflect media scrutiny and criticism from an unfolding corruption scandal in the force.
The operation was given a more formal footing the following year and charges were announced in 2017. Pell repeatedly denied all the accusations and left Rome for Melbourne insisting that he would clear his name in court.
During pre-trial committal hearings, several of the accusations, related to his time as a priest in the town of Ballarat, were dropped by prosecutors owing to lack of evidence.
In 2018, Pell arrived in court to face the first of what was originally meant to be two trials. That trial proceeded to a deadlock under a court-ordered media blackout in the early autumn of 2018. A five week retrial, also subject to blanket reporting restrictions, convicted Pell in December of that year, and Pell was sentenced to six years in prison.
The second trial collapsed before it could begin when, in January last year, prosecutors conceded they did not have enough evidence to proceed to trial.
Pell's initial appeal of the verdict was rejected in 2019 by a court in the Australian state of Victoria, before the case went to the High Court which quashed the conviction.
Throughout his trial Pell has maintained his innocence, telling friends that he was committed to living his time in prison - much of it spent in solitary confinement - as a monastic retreat.
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"He sees himself as living a time of purgatory for the sins of the Church, and he's embracing it as that," one close friend of Pell told CNA last year.