SYDNEY (Reuters) – For two decades, George Pell was the dominant figure in the Catholic Church in Australia – a boy from a gold mining town whose ambition, intellect and knack for befriending influential people propelled him to become the third-most senior official in the Vatican.
That came crashing down in December, when a court found Pell, 77, guilty of five charges of child sex offences committed in a Melbourne cathedral 115 km (70 miles) from his hometown of Ballarat. The verdict had been subject to a court order that prevented reporting of the case until the judge lifted the restrictions on Tuesday.
Pell - Decades - Priest - Ballarat - Gold
Pell spent most of his first three decades as a priest in Ballarat, an old gold mining town in the state of Victoria. State and federal inquiries would later find it to be one of the Catholic dioceses worst-affected by cases of abuse, though none of the complaints against Pell stem from his time there.
It was after Pell left his hometown to become Archbishop of Melbourne, in 1996, that he committed offences against two choirboys in the city’s St Patrick’s Cathedral for which he was found guilty by the 12-person jury.
Complaints - Pell - Public - Charges - Meantime
It was not until 2016 that the complaints against Pell were first made public, with charges laid in 2017, and in the meantime he continued to rise through Australia’s Church hierarchy.
By the time Pell became Archbishop of Sydney, the country’s top-ranking Catholic position, in 2001 he was a polarizing national figure – revered by many conservative Catholics but criticized by liberals for his outspoken views.
World - Youth - Day - Event - Toronto
At a 2002 World Youth Day event in Toronto, Pell made headlines by saying “abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people” since abortion was “always a destruction of human life”.
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