The Latest: Vatican to wait before investigating Pell

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George Pell

FILE – In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia. Pell’s appeal against his convictions for child molestation was largely a question of who should the jury have believed, his accuser or a senior priest whose church role was likened to Pell’s bodyguard. Pell’s accuser was a 13-year-old choirboy when he alleged he was abused by then Melbourne Archbishop Pell at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in December 1996 and February 1997. The appeal court will give their verdict on Aug. 21. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Latest on an appeals court upholding the sex abuse convictions of Cardinal George Pell (all times local):

8 p.m.

The Vatican says it will let Cardinal George Pell exhaust all his appeals of his sexual abuse convictions in Australia before taking up his case in its own canon law investigation.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni says the decision to hold off on any action is consistent with the way the Vatican has handled other sex abuse cases.

Bruni was responding to questions after an Australian appeals court on Wednesday upheld Pell’s conviction on charges he molested two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral more than two decades ago. Pell can still lodge a final appeal with the High Court, Australia’s final arbiter.

If the Vatican eventually convicts Pell of sex abuse under canon law, he could be defrocked. Pell has already been barred from exercising public ministry or having contact with minors.

Pell has insisted on his innocence.

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4:30 p.m.

The Vatican has acknowledged a court’s dismissal of Cardinal George Pell’s appeal and reiterated its respect for the Australian judicial system.

The statement issued Wednesday says: “The Holy See recalls that the cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court.”

An appeals court upheld Pell’s convictions for molesting two 13-year-old choirboys more than two decades ago. Pell’s lawyers have not said if they will appeal.

Pell was formerly the Vatican’s finance minister but is no longer a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals or a Vatican official.

The Vatican statement also said it was confirming “its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse.”

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3:10 p.m.

A non-profit group that seeks accountability for sex abuse in the Catholic church is welcoming an appeals court’s decision upholding convictions against Cardinal George Pell.

U.S.-based BishopAccountability.org says the Australian court ruling Wednesday is a watershed and should give all victims hope.

The group’s statement says, “Catholics everywhere owe thanks to the incredibly brave victim who brought Pell to justice.”

It also expressed hope Australia would continue to investigate Pell, citing the history of church leaders shielding abusive clergy. “An abusive bishop is, inevitably, an enabler of other sexual criminals. His sphere of negative influence extends beyond his own victims, hurting the children (who) are raped or assaulted by the abusive clerics to whom he gives safe harbor.”

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2:50 p.m.

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference says all Australians must be equal under the law as it accepted the court’s decision to reject Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against convictions for child sex abuse.

The body representing Australian Catholic bishops says in a statement on Wednesday it acknowledges that the judgment “will be distressing to many people.”

The bishops also say they “realize that this has been and remains a most difficult time for survivors of child sexual abuse and those who support them.”

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12:40 p.m.

Lawyers for Cardinal George Pell are considering an appeal to Australia’s High Court after a lower court upheld his sex abuse convictions.

The Victoria state Court of Appeal by a 2-1 ruling denied Pell’s appeal Wednesday. The High Court is Australia’s final arbiter.

In December, a jury unanimously found Pope Francis’ former finance minister guilty of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral more than two decades ago. He was sentenced in March to six years in prison.

A statement from Pell’s spokeswoman said the lawyers will examine the judgment and consider further appeal.

It said he maintains his innocence and “Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today.”

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noon

The victim who testified that Cardinal George Pell molested him as a choirboy in the 1990s says he is relieved that Pell’s appeal against convictions has failed and hopes the legal process has ended.

The man, who cannot be named, says in a statement released by his lawyer on Wednesday the criminal process since he reported Pell to police four years ago has been “stressful.”

He also says he is glad Pell has the “best legal representation money can buy.”

The victim says he has not asked for compensation and the case has never been about money.

Pell’s lawyers have yet to say whether they intend to appeal the verdict in the High Court, Australia’s final arbiter.

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11 a.m.

The lawyers representing one of the victims abused by Cardinal George Pell say his father shed tears at Pell’s appeal being denied.

The Victoria state Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld Pell’s convictions for abusing two 13-year-old boys more than 20 years ago.

One of the former choirboys was the key prosecution witness. His friend died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 without ever complaining he had been abused. Neither can be named, nor the father.

Lawyer Lisa Flynn said the father had an “extremely tough wait” for this judgment and the court made the correct decision. “The disgraced cardinal is in the right place behind bars.”

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10:50 a.m.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Cardinal George Pell will be stripped of his Order of Australia honor after he lost his court appeal.

Morrison made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday after a Victoria state appeals court ruled 2-1 to uphold Pell’s convictions for molesting two choirboys more than two decades ago.

Pell was sentenced to six years in prison in March and was ordered to serve a minimum of 3 years and 8 months before he will be eligible for parole.

His lawyers are expected to appeal the decision in the High Court, Australia’s final arbiter.

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9:40 a.m.

An Australian court has upheld convictions against the most senior Catholic to be found guilty of sexually abusing children.

The Victoria state Court of Appeal by a 2-1 majority ruling issued Wednesday rejected Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unanimous verdicts a jury issued in December finding Pope Francis’ former finance minister guilty of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and 1997.

At the time, Pell had just become archbishop of Australia’s second largest city and had set up a world-first compensation arrangement for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

His lawyers are expected to appeal the decision in the High Court, Australia’s final arbiter.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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