.- Cardinal George Pell has been convicted by an Australian court on charges of sexual abuse of minors, according to media reports and CNA sources close to the cardinal.
A judicial gag order has restricted Australian media coverage of the trial since June.
Despite the gag order, a story published Dec. 11 on the Daily Beast website first reported that a unanimous verdict of guilty had been returned by a jury on charges that Pell sexually abused two altar servers in the late 1990s, while he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
The verdict reportedly followed three days of deliberations by the jury – the second to hear the case. An earlier hearing of the case is reported to have ended in early autumn with a mistrial, after jurors were unable to reach a verdict.
In October, two sources close to Cardinal Pell, members of neither his legal team nor the Catholic hierarchy in Australia, told CNA that the first hearing of the case had ended in a mistrial due to a jury stalemate. One source said that jury was deadlocked 10-2 in favor of Pell.
In remarks to CNA Dec. 12, the same sources independently confirmed this week’s report that a guilty verdict had been reached.
The conviction has not yet been confirmed by the Australian judiciary, and the gag order on Australian media could remain in place for several months.
Pell will reportedly be sentenced in early 2019. He will not be incarcerated prior to his sentencing.
Citing deference to the gag order, the Vatican has declined to comment on reports of the guilty verdict.
“The Holy See has the utmost respect for the Australian courts. We are aware there is a suppression order in place and we respect that order,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told reporters Dec 12.
Read more at Catholic News Agency.