AUSTRALIA’S HIGH COURT OVERTURNS CARDINAL PELL’S CONVICTION
On Tuesday morning, the judges serving on Australia’s High Court announced their decision to overturn Cardinal Pell’s conviction saying that the “evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof.”
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Cardinal George Pell’s legal battle ended on Tuesday morning. Australia’s High Court announced their unanimous decision to overturn the guilty verdict upheld by Victoria’s Court of Appeal last August. The High Court justices based their decision on the fact that the appellate court had failed to take into consideration whether there “remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place”, leaving open “reasonable doubt” as to the Cardinal’s guilt. (JFL photo)
The Cardinal has been in prison since the February 2019 guilty verdict was announced. Shortly after the High Court acquitted him, he left the prison and is reported to have been taken to a monastery in Melbourne.
Cardinal Pell’s reaction
Cardinal Pell released a statement after hearing the High Court’s decision. In it, he reiterates that he has “consistently maintained” his innocence. The “injustice” that he received “has been remedied” today, he continued.
Addressing the person who brought the charges against him, Cardinal Pell said, “I hold no ill will towards my accuser.” And thinking of others who may feel “hurt and bitterness”, he said that he does not want his acquittal to add any additional pain. The basis for “long term healing,” he continued, “is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all.”
The Cardinal thanked everyone who has prayed for him, sent letters of support, his family, his “team of advisors,” “friends and supporters here and overseas,” and especially, his legal team. He ended his statement thinking of those affected by the Coronavirus. “I am praying for all those affected and our medical frontline personnel,” he said.
Australian Bishops reaction
On behalf of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, its President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge also issued a statement. In it, he acknowledges the mixed feelings that the Cardinal’s acquittal will provoke. “Today’s outcome will be welcome” by those who “believe in the Cardinal’s innocence” and “devastating for others.” “Many have suffered greatly through the process, which has now reached its conclusion,” the Archbishop said.
Archbishop Coleridge ended his statement reiterating the “Church’s unwavering commitment to child safety and to a just and compassionate response to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse.” Since children’s safety is of utmost important to the “Catholic community”, and its bishops, he invited: “any person with allegations of sexual abuse by Church personnel should go to the police.”
(This article was updated at 8:22am Rome time, Tuesday)
PRESS OFFICE ON AUSTRALIA COURT DECISION
“The Holy See, which has always expressed confidence in the Australian judicial authority, welcomes the High Court’s unanimous decision concerning Cardinal George Pell, acquitting him of the accusations of abuse of minors and overturning his sentence.
“Entrusting his case to the court’s justice, Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence, and has waited for the truth to be ascertained.
“At the same time, the Holy See reaffirms its commitment to preventing and pursuing all cases of abuse against minors.”
PAPAL ALMONER: INVITE TO MEMBERS OF PAPAL HOUSEHOLD
A communiqué from the Papal Almoner:
“The Apostolic Almoner of the Holy Father, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, invites the Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and Prelates who make up the Cappella Papale (Papal Household) Chapel to solidarity.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the liturgical celebrations presided over by the Holy Father in Holy Week will be lived without the presence of those who, in accordance with the Motu Proprio Pontificalis Domus, make up the Papal Household.
“To participate in the sufferings of those who are experiencing this trial, the Almoner asks in a letter (the Papal Household) to be united intimately and in a special way with the Pontiff, Bishop of Rome who “presides over the universal communion of charity” (Ecumenical Vatican Council II, Constitution Lumen gentium, 3), through an offer. The Holy Father will then decide the destination of the alms collected for the health emergency.”