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Australian Cardinal George Pell, a high ranking cardinal in the Vatican hierarchy was sentenced on Wednesday to six years in prison for pedophilia crimes against two minors committed more than 20 years ago.
Judge Peter Kidd of the Victoria state court said the first three years and eight months of the prison sentence come without the possibility of parole which he will only be allowed from October 2022. Pell's defense has already appealed and the appeal will be reviewed in June.
While reading the sentence, the judge said that the cardinal, who at the time of the crimes was archbishop of Melbourne, acted with "astonishing arrogance" and that at the trial "sustained his innocence, which is his right," but at the same time never showed "remorse or contrition."
Currently 77, Pell was 55 at the time of the crime. The cardinal was convicted of sex offenses against two 13-year-old choir boys in St. Patrick's Cathedral, where he was the archbishop. The other convictions are related to undue physical contact with the boys.
The names of the victims were not cited. Only one is alive and the other died of a heroin overdose in 2014. The father of the second victim was "disappointed by the short conviction" and expressed his sadness for what he considered an inadequate punishment for those crimes. The surviving victim considered the judge's decision "meticulous and analytical."
"It is difficult for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment, the moment the sentence is pronounced, the moment when justice is done," the man said in a statement read by one of his lawyers. "It is difficult for me, for now, to console myself with this result. I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted on me as a child. However, there is no rest for me, everything is overshadowed by the appeal."
The judge pointed out in the ruling that the abuse of the two boys in the choir was "a blatant sexual attack and forced against the victims." "The acts were sexually graphic. Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during the offense," the judge emphasized, insisting that Pell was aware of his actions and did not react when one of the children asked him to let them go.
After reading the sentence, the judge, who pointed out that his decision "was not simple" and ensured that he took into account both the seriousness of the crimes and the age and health of Pell, asked the cardinal to sign the record of sexual abusers, which will remain "for life."
The verdict was issued after a jury unanimously found Pell guilty in December of the crimes for which he was charged, although the verdict was announced only on Feb. 26 following the filing of a second case against the hierarchy of the Catholic Church for alleged sexual abuse of minors in the 1970s in his hometown of Ballarat.
Pell is the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church to be convicted of sexual abuses. In 2016, he stepped down as Vatican finance chief to face the charges. In December, the Vatican announced the removal of Pell as one of Pope Francis's advisors, without commenting on the trial.
In February, the Catholic Church opened an internal investigation into Pell, which could result in a canonical judgment and eventual expulsion from the priesthood. In the same month, the Church held an extraordinary four-day summit to discuss sexual abuse committed in Catholic institutions.
The Australian Cardinal's trial is the latest in the countless cases of sexual abuse that have shaken the Catholic Church in Australia in recent years. Authorities estimate that more than 4,000 children have been victims in more than 1,000 Australian Catholic institutions since the 1980s.
In addition, the Catholic Church has been shaken by several sexual abuse scandals around the world, including Chile, Germany, and the United States.