Australia

Cardinal Pell makes final attempt to quash sexual abuse convictions

George Pell leaves a court hearing in Melbourne in February, flanked by police and media representatives Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption George Pell leaves a court hearing in Melbourne in February

Cardinal George Pell has launched a final bid to overturn his convictions in Australia for child sexual abuse.

Pell was jailed for six years in March after being convicted of abusing two boys in Melbourne in the 1990s.

The former Vatican treasurer is the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of such crimes, but he has consistently maintained his innocence.

After losing an earlier appeal, Pell now hopes his case will be heard by Australia's top court.

However, there is no guarantee that the High Court of Australia will agree to review it.

Last December, a jury unanimously convicted Pell of sexually abusing the 13-year-old boys inside Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral. The convictions included one count of sexual penetration and four counts of committing indecent acts.

The verdict was kept secret from the public until February, when additional charges of sexual offences against Pell were withdrawn by prosecutors.

The Australian cleric filed his application in the High Court of Australia on Tuesday.

In his failed first appeal, Pell asserted that the guilty verdict had relied unreasonably on the testimony of one victim. His second victim died of a drug overdose in 2014.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption'The little people have won': Activists react to Cardinal Pell losing his first appeal last month

The grounds for his latest appeal bid have not been made public.

Pell's conviction has rocked the Catholic Church, where he had been one of Pope Francis's closest advisers.

He was demoted from the Pope's inner circle last year, but the Vatican continues to face calls for Pell to be defrocked.

Pell will be eligible for parole in October 2022.