VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, speaking just a few hours after Australia’s highest court acquitted Cardinal George Pell of sexually assaulting two choirboys, on Tuesday offered his morning Mass for those who suffer from unjust sentences.
The court quashed convictions that Pell sexually assaulted the two teenagers in the 1990s and allowed the 78-year-old former Vatican economy minister to walk free from jail, ending the most high profile case of alleged historical sex abuse to rock the Roman Catholic Church.
Each morning at the Mass in his residence, Francis chooses an intention for the service, such as remembering the poor, the homeless or the sick.
“I would like to pray today for all those people who suffer unjust sentences resulting from intransigence (against them),” Francis said, speaking extemporaneously at the start of the Mass. Francis did not mention Pell by name.
In recent weeks, the pope’s intentions for nearly all of his daily Masses have related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Francis compared the suffering of those inflicted with unjust sentences today to the way Jewish community elders persecuted Jesus with “obstinacy and rage even though he was innocent.”
The Vatican had no immediate comment on the verdict on Pell, which comes in the middle of Holy Week, the period leading up to Easter, the most important day in the Christian calendar.
Francis, who appointed Pell to overhaul the Vatican’s vast finances in 2014, has said he would comment only after all avenues of appeal had been exhausted.
An official Vatican comment was expected later on Tuesday and it was not clear if the pope would make a specific personal statement.
In its report on the decision, the official Vatican News website recalled that Pell had always maintained his innocence and his right to defend himself until all levels of justice were exhausted.