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An Australian appeals court Wednesday upheld convictions against Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic to be found guilty of sexually abusing children, in a decision cheered by scores of abuse survivors and victims’ advocates demonstrating outside the court.

A unanimous jury in December found Pope Francis’ former finance minister guilty of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral more than two decades ago. The Victoria state Court of Appeal rejected his appeal in a 2-1 ruling, with the court’s chief justice saying the majority found Pell’s accuser to be a compelling “witness of truth.”

Pell’s lawyers will examine the judgment and consider an appeal to the High Court, Australia’s final arbiter, his spokeswoman Katrina Lee said. “Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision,” her statement said.

The Vatican noted Pell had always maintained his innocence and had a right to appeal. It said its own investigation into Pell would await the outcome of any final appeal in Australia.

″.... the Holy See confirms its closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse,” a Vatican statement said, adding it respected the Australian judicial system.

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference said all Australians must be equal under the law and it accepted the verdict.

“I respectfully receive the court’s decision and I encourage everyone to do the same,” Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli said in a statement.

Pell was sentenced to six years in prison in March and is no longer a member of Pope 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. He wore a cleric’s collar but not his cardinal’s ring. Pell had arrived at the court in a prison van and was handcuffed as he was led away by a guard.

Clerical sexual abuse and the Catholic Church’s handling of such cases worldwide have thrown Francis’ papacy into turmoil.

In a little more than a year, the pope has acknowledged he made “grave errors” in Chile’s worst cover-up, Pell was convicted of abuse, a French cardinal was convicted of failing to report a pedophile, and a third cardinal, former U.S. church leader Theodore McCarrick, was defrocked after a Vatican investigation determined he molested children and adults.

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