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MELBOURNE, Victoria (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics are calling for prayers as an Australian cardinal seeks to appeal his prison sentence.
Cardinal George Pell was found guilty in December 2018 on charges related to sexual abuse of minors. The cardinal was accused of sexually assaulting two choir boys after Mass in the sacristy of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.
In March, a judge sentenced Cdl. Pell to six years in prison.
Many Catholics in Australia and around the world have raised doubts about Cdl. Pell's conviction. Some are calling for prayers as Pell's legal counsel will soon present the appeal to a panel of three judges.
For instance, Deacon Nick Donnelly said on Twitter on May 26, "Please pray for the intentions of Cardinal Pell at Mass this Sunday as he prepares for his appeal in early June."
Please pray for the intentions of Cardinal Pell at Mass this Sunday as he prepares for his appeal in early June pic.twitter.com/z0RDlKq9Ri— Nick Donnelly (@ProtecttheFaith) May 26, 2019
The court appeal is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday — that is 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday night for Americans.
Some legal experts say that Cdl. Pell has a good shot at winning the appeal. Jeremy Gans, a criminal justice expert at the University of Melbourne, told the press that "there is a good chance that Pell will succeed."
The Australian cardinal was a high-ranking figure at the Vatican when the abuse allegations surfaced. In June 2017, he announced he would be leaving for Australia to fight the sex abuse charges in court.
"I am innocent of these charges," he said at the June 2017 press conference. "They are false."
Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence.
The case against Pell met with a hung jury in September, as 10 of the 12 jurors thought he was innocent but could not reach a unanimous agreement. The judge ordered a retrial, and Cdl. Pell was found guilty by the court in December of five charges related to child sexual abuse.
His attorneys are challenging his conviction on three grounds. Firstly, they argue the jury was unable to convict Pell beyond a reasonable doubt, due to a lack of evidence and apparent inconsistencies with the accuser's testimony. Secondly, they note that the judge blocked them from showing jurors a video which undermined crucial details in the accuser's testimony. Thirdly, they point out that Cdl. Pell was not given the chance to state his "not guilty plea" in the presence of the jury.
Although Cdl. Pell was found guilty in December, an Australian judge issued a gag order banning media from reporting on the verdict. There were other charges against Pell to be dealt with in another trial, and the judge believed a gag order would help ensure an unbiased jury.
Word of the verdict got out to non-Australian news organizations, who reported on the secretive court ruling. Many of those organizations, including Church Militant, received notifications threatening prosecution.