An Australian appeals court by a 2-1 ruling Wednesday upheld convictions against Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic to be found guilty of sexually abusing children. The Victoria state Court of Appeal rejected Pell's appeal of a unanimous jury verdict in December that he was guilty of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne's St. Patrick's Cathedral more than two decades ago, the AP reports. Lawyers for Pope Francis' former finance minister are expected to appeal to the High Court, Australia's final arbiter. He was sentenced to six years in prison in March and is no longer a member of Francis' council of cardinals or a Vatican official. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said soon after the appeal was rejected that Pell would be stripped of his Order of Australia honor.
Pell, 78, showed no emotion when Chief Justice Anne Ferguson read the verdict to a packed courtroom but bowed his head moments later. Ferguson said she and President of the Court of Appeal Chris Maxwell "decided that it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Cardinal Pell was guilty." Pell had arrived at the court in a prison van and was handcuffed as he was led away by a guard. The Vatican is conducting its own investigation into sex abuse allegations against Pell and is expected to comment on the ruling later Wednesday. When sentencing Pell to six years in prison in March, the trial judge accused Pell of showing "staggering arrogance" in his crimes. He was ordered to serve a minimum of three years and eight months before he will be eligible for parole.
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