By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Cardinal George Pell's legal battle ended on Tuesday morning. Australia's High Court announced their unanimous decision to overturn the guilty verdict upheld by Victoria's Court of Appeal last August. The High Court justices based their decision on the fact that the appellate court had failed to take into consideration whether there "remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place", leaving open "reasonable doubt" as to the Cardinal's guilt.
The Cardinal has been in prison since the February 2019 guilty verdict was announced. Shortly after the High Court acquitted him, he left the prison and is reported to have been taken to a monastery in Melbourne.
Cardinal Pell's reaction
Cardinal Pell released a statement after hearing the High Court's decision. In it, he reiterates that he has "consistently maintained" his innocence. The "injustice" that he received "has been remedied" today, he continued.
Addressing the person who brought the charges against him, Cardinal Pell said, "I hold no ill will towards my accuser". And thinking of others who may feel "hurt and bitterness", he said that he does not want his acquittal to add any additional pain. The basis for "long term healing", he continued, "is truth and the only basis for justice is truth, because justice means truth for all".
The Cardinal thanked everyone who has prayed for him, sent letters of support, his family, his "team of advisors", "friends and supporters here and overseas", and especially, his legal team. He ended his statement thinking of those affected by the Coronavirus. "I am praying for all those affected and our medical frontline personnel.", he said.
Australian Bishops reaction
On behalf of the Australian Bishops' Conference, its President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge also issued a statement. In it, he acknowledges the mixed feelings that the Cardinal's acquittal will provoke. "Today's outcome will be welcome" by those who "believe in the Cardinal's innocence", and "devastating for others". "Many have suffered greatly through the process, which has now reached its conclusion", the Archbishop said.
Archbishop Coleridge ended hs statement reiterating the "Church’s unwavering commitment to child safety and to a just and compassionate response to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse". Since children's safety is of utmost important to the "Catholic community", and its bishops, he invited: "any person with allegations of sexual abuse by Church personnel should go to the police."
This article was updated at 8:22am