More victims come forward after Pell conviction

Cardinal George Pell is the highest Catholic cleric convicted of sex abuse. Photo: AP
Cardinal George Pell is the highest Catholic cleric convicted of sex abuse. Photo: AP
More victims are coming forward with allegations of abuse to the Catholic Church after the revealing of Australian Cardinal George Pell's child sex convictions.

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli has apologised to abuse victims and said people were calling the Church on Tuesday as news broke of Pell's guilty verdict.  He is the highest Catholic cleric convicted of sex abuse.

Cardinal Pell, Pope Francis' top financial adviser and the Vatican's economy minister, bowed his head as the 12-member jury delivered unanimous verdicts in the Victoria state County Court on December 11 last year after more than two days of deliberation.

The 77-year-old was convicted of abusing two 13-year-olds in a rear room of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.

The court had until Tuesday suppressed publication of any details about the trial. The judge said he would announce the disgraced cleric's sentence on March 13. Pell could face 50 years in jail.

The cardinal's lawyers have lodged an appeal and will apply for bail in the Court of Appeal. No date has been set for an appeal hearing.

Archbishop Comensoli yesterday did not specify whether the latest allegations concerned Cardinal Pell or others within the Church,

"There are others who made contact with us yesterday and I suspect, over the next few days, because of what's come to light through the lifting of the suppression order, who will come forward and say, 'I too was abused at a particular time in a certain circumstance'," he told ABC radio yesterday.

He said 131 survivors had come through the Melbourne Response, the Church's recourse programme, of which Pell was the architect.

The archbishop said he had spoken to Pell in the past 24 hours and he seemed "strong within himself".

"I would say this particular trial was fair and that he continues to protest his innocence. I would not want to disparage, in any way, our judicial process so both of the trials that were held were both held according to law and appropriately."

Archbishop Comensoli said Pell remained characteristically stoic.

"I would describe him as strong within himself, this is obviously a terrible time for him personally," he told Triple M radio.

He said it would be "completely irresponsible" of him to guarantee abuse within the Catholic Church would never recur, but child safety programmes were now in place to guard against it.

One of his key tasks was to rebuild trust in the Church, given that had been "terribly damaged", he said.

"Sorry to all those who have been abused and communities who have been so terribly damaged not only by the abuse that has occurred, but the efforts to cover up or negate and so on, I say sorry," he told ABC radio.

"We have not listened well. Certainly, many victims have talked about how they weren't believed and all of that has compounded the fighting of cases through civil processes.

"There has been a shift from those sort of ways, perhaps there is a new generation of leaders like myself who are coming forward who take a different approach."

VATICAN INVESTIGATES PELL

The Vatican spokesman says that the Vatican office that handles sex abuse of minors has taken over the case involving Pell following his conviction for molesting two choir boys.

Spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Pell was being investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which has the power to remove him from the priesthood.

The move was expected as the Church must conduct its own canonical investigation whenever there is a credible allegation of sex abuse.

Pope Francis removed Pell as a member of his informal Cabinet in October last year, and the Vatican confirmed he is no longer its economy minister.

- AAP and AP

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