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Pope Francis accused of comparing convicted child abuser cardinal to Jesus after controversial comments.
During a Mass celebrated at his residence in Santa Marta on Tuesday morning, the Pope prayed for those suffering the “persecution that Jesus suffered,” including those who had been subjected to “unjust sentences.”
The message came mere hours after Australia’s highest court acquitted 78-year-old former Vatican economy minister Cardinal George Pell of child sexual abuse in one of the most high-profile cases in the Catholic Church to date.
The Pope also followed up the comments in the sermon, which was livestreamed online, with a tweet about people suffering because “someone had it in for them.”
“In these days of Lent, we’ve been witnessing the persecution that Jesus underwent and how he was judged ferociously, even though he was innocent. Let us #PrayTogether today for all those persons who suffer due to an unjust sentence because of someone (sic) had it in for them,” he wrote.
Australian comedian and musician Tim Minchin was among those wading in to criticize the pontiff.
Many went to great pains to correct the Pope’s language in the comparison made between Pell and Jesus, stating that Pell was not found innocent, merely that he had been released as a result of a legal technicality, the introduction of doubt.
The High Court decision is NOT that #GeorgePell is INNOCENT of the depraved crimes alleged against him. It is that there were reasonable grounds for doubt. It will always be a fact of history that he was found to be guilty by a jury of his peers – his EQUALS.
Meanwhile, the Vatican welcomed the acquittal and praised Pell for having “waited for the truth to be ascertained,” while restating its “commitment to preventing and pursuing all cases of abuse against minors.”
Pell served as number three in the Vatican hierarchy, and was charged with managing the Holy See’s finances while also rooting out corruption within the Church.
The cardinal is likely already too old to resume any position with the Holy See, but the Vatican’s internal disciplinary department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is expected to now consider whether or not to order a canonical trial.