Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of child sexual abuse in Australia, becoming the most senior member of the Catholic Church to be convicted on such charges.
The former Vatican treasurer, Australia's highest-ranked Catholic and the third most powerful man in the Church was found guilty Dec. 11 in a Melbourne courtroom on one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 years of age and four charges of committing an indecent act on children in the 1990s when he was the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Guardian reported.
Media was unable to report on the ruling until Monday due to a suppression order.
Pell, 77, was found guilty in a retrial in December after the jury of an earlier trial in September was hung, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
He was also accused of sexually assaulting two boys in a swimming pool in the 1970s but prosecutor Fran Dalziel told the court Tuesday that the case would not proceed due to a lack of admissible evidence.
He is to be sentenced Wednesday local time. His lawyers said he will appeal the conviction.
During his December trial, the jury heard that in 1996 the then newly ordained Archbishop of Melbourne had walked in on two 13-year-old choirboys drinking sacramental wine.
Pell then told the boys they were in trouble before revealing himself to them, one of the complainants, now a 35-year-old man, told the jury.
The other boy had died years ago from a heroin overdose and had not reported having been abused.
The case hinged on the 35-year-old man's testimony.
Pell then forced the two boys to perform oral sex on him before fondling them, the complainant said.
The complainant said he was also molested a second time by Pell about a year later.
Pell had pleaded not guilty.
However, the complainant's evidence was "powerful and persuasive," Crown prosecutor Mark Gibson said.
The verdict follows a first-of-its-kind catholic summit that aimed to address sexual abuse scandals within the Church titled "The Protection of Minors in the Church."
During it, Pope Francis, who had selected Pell to be one of his top advisors, urged bishops to "listen to the screams of the little ones asking for justice."
The complainant in a letter thanked his family "near and far" for their support and asked that his privacy respected.
"I need space and time to come with the ongoing criminal process," he said, adding that he is not "a spokesperson about child sexual abuse."
"I am just a regular guy working to support and protect my family," he said.