The Vatican has welcomed the decision of Australia’s High Court overturning the conviction of Cardinal George Pell on five counts of historical child sex abuse.
In a statement, the Holy See said it has “always expressed confidence in the Australian judicial authority” and welcomed the High Court’s unanimous decision.
“Entrusting his case to the court’s justice, Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence, and has waited for the truth to be ascertained,” read the Vatican statement.
It added that “the Holy See reaffirms its commitment to preventing and pursuing all cases of abuse against minors.”
Cardinal Pell was freed from prison on April 7 after the court unanimously overturned his conviction and ended a five-year legal battle.
The cardinal, who was Vatican treasurer during the time allegations of sex abused were leveled against him, is the highest ranking Catholic official to ever be publicly accused of child sex offenses.
Cardinal Pell denied the charges by a man in his 30s who claimed that as a child in the 1990s he was abused by the prelate.
In a police interview in 2016, the cardinal described the allegation as a “product of fantasy”
In a statement following the court decision, Cardinal Pell said he held “no ill will” toward his accuser.
“I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough,” he said.
“The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not,” added the cardinal’s statement.
In an interview with Catholic News Agency after his release from prison, Cardinal Pell said he was always hopeful about the court decision which acquitted him of all charges.
“What I am really looking forward to is celebrating a private Mass,” he told CNA. “It has been a very long time, so that is a great blessing,” he said.
He said he had lived his time in prison as a “long retreat.”
“Prayer has been the great source of strength to me throughout these times, including the prayers of others, and I am incredibly grateful to all those people who have prayed for me and helped me during this really challenging time,” he said.
In his public statement, Cardinal Pell offered his solidarity with victims of sexual abuse.
“The only basis for long term healing is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all,” he said.
Cardinal Pell was convicted in 2018 in a second trial concerning allegations of sex abuse. The first trial ended in a hung jury.
After the conviction, he was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he had been required to serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.
The cardinal has always maintained his innocence, insisting that the alleged crimes would have been, under the circumstances, “simply impossible.”