Vatican places restrictions on Cardinal George Pell after sex abuse conviction

Cardinal Pell convicted of abuse

Last Updated Feb 26, 2019 9:05 PM EST

It was revealed Tuesday a former top aide to Pope Francis was convicted by an Australian court of molesting two choirboys. Cardinal George Pell is the highest-ranking church official ever convicted of abuse.

Pell was heckled as he left the Melbourne court as some jeered, "Absolute pig! You're a monster!

One of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church, the former Vatican treasurer and top adviser to Francis was convicted of sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys in 1996.

The verdict had been suppressed for more than two months due to a gag order imposed by the court meant to avoid prejudicing a jury for a separate trial — now dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Cardinal George Pell
Cardinal George Pell seen at Melbourne County Court in Australia. Getty

Pell has always maintained his innocence.

"The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me," Pell said June 29, 2017.

His legal team filed an appeal. Tuesday, the Vatican said it would await that verdict before taking any action, but confirmed restrictions on Pell.

"Cardinal Pell is prohibited from exercising public ministry and from having any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors," said Vatican spokesperson Alessandro Gisotti.

This follows the Vatican sex abuse summit criticized by victims for the lack of concrete results. Father Hans Zollner was one of the summit organizers.

"We see that nobody is untouchable," Zollner said. "We have seen this with former Cardinal and Priest [Theodore] McCarrick — if it is confirmed, we have seen this now with Cardinal Pell who has been subject to a trial."

Those consequences could include being defrocked or removed from the College of Cardinals. Pell faces up to 50 years in prison.

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