According to Vatican News, Pope Francis received Cardinal George Pell in audience on Monday, October 13, 2020 and in greeting him also thanked him for his witness.
The 79-year-old Australian Cardinal, prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for the Economy (holding the position from 2014 to 2019), returned to Rome in the past few days. He had left the Vatican in July 2017 to face charges regarding the sexual abuse of minors.
Pope Francis granted him a period of leave to be able to defend himself against the accusations.
Pell’s trial: found guilty in the first trial Here is a brief summary of Pell’s judicial process. He was formally accused in 2017 for the sexual abuse of minors committed on two separate occasions in 1996 and 1997 when he was the Archbishop of Melbourne.
In December, Melbourne’s Magistrates’ Court handed down a guilty verdict and Pell began his 6-year prison sentence in February 2019. He was placed in isolation. Cardinal Pell declared his innocence, saying that the crimes of which he had been accused were horrible and intolerable and that he would continue to fight the accusations.
The Holy See explained it was awaiting the definitive establishment of the facts. First appeal upholds guilty verdict, with one judge dissenting In June 2019, Victoria’s Court of Appeal began the second phase of the process with the defense arguing that the verdict was unreasonable and there were procedural flaws in the first instance trial. The dissenting judge, Mark Weinberg, strongly opposed the verdict on the basis that a person cannot be found guilty if the evidence does not clearly demonstrate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, otherwise an innocent person risks being condemned. . The High Court exonerates Pell unanimously In March 2020, the Pell case reached Australia’s High Court which agreed to hear Pell’s final appeal based on Mark Weinberg’s arguments. On 7 April 2020, that court, composed of seven judges, criticizing the inconsistencies of the Court of Appeal’s ruling, unanimously exonerated Cardinal Pell because there was a reasonable possibility that the crime had not taken place.
The Cardinal left prison after 400 days of incarceration. The Cardinal stated that he hoped his acquittal would not cause any further pain. "The only basis for long term healing,” he stated, “is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all.” Cardinal Pell thanked all those who had prayed for him and for those who had supported him during that difficult time. He expressed gratitude to his legal team who had worked determinedly so that justice would prevail in order to shed light on “manufactured obscurity” and reveal the truth.
Pope Francis said, without referring to Cardinal Pell: The Holy See welcomes the acquittal The overturning of Cardinal Pell’s sentence was met with satisfaction in the Holy See. In a statement, it affirmed that it had always “expressed confidence in the Australian judicial authority”. The statement emphasized, while “entrusting his case to the court’s justice, Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence, and has waited for the truth to be ascertained.”
Edited from VaticanNews - Image Source: Screenshot Vatican Media