The most senior Catholic ever convicted of child sex abuse is on his way to an Australian prison, and a judge acknowledged Tuesday that there is a strong chance Cardinal George Pell will die there. Victoria state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd sentenced the 77-year-old to six years in prison for abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in 1996, NPR reports. "I am conscious that the term of imprisonment ... carries with it a real, as distinct from theoretical, possibility that you may not live to be released from prison," he told Pell, who will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months. The former Vatican treasurer was once the church's No. 3 official.
One of the two victims, identified in court as "J," said that while he is glad Pell is going to prison, "everything is overshadowed" by the appeal, which will be heard in June. The second victim, "R," died of a heroin overdose in 2014 and his family didn't learn of the abuse until after his death. Lawyer Lisa Flynn said R's father is glad there has been a conviction, but he believes the abuse destroyed his son's life and is saddened by a sentence he feels is too short, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. "Today has to be the start of the end of abuse within the Catholic Church," Flynn said. "This sentence may empower and hopefully will empower more survivors and victims to come forward." (Read more Cardinal George Pell stories.)