The Vatican on Wednesday said it will open an internal investigation into Australian Cardinal George Pell following his conviction for sexually assaulting two choirboys.
“After the guilty verdict in the first instance concerning Cardinal Pell, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will now handle the case following the procedure and within the time established by canonical norm,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said in a statement.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is part of the Vatican’s central bureaucracy, and investigates allegations of clerical sexual abuse.
The investigation could result in a canonical trial and Pell’s eventual expulsion from the priesthood. Pell is the most senior member of the clergy to ever be convicted of sexually abusing children.
A jury in December unanimously found Pell guilty of molesting two 13-year-old boys in a back room of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996, just weeks after he became archbishop of Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne.
Pell’s bail revoked
On Wednesday, Pell was to spend his first night in prison after he had his bail revoked. His sentencing will take place on March 13 and he faces up to 50 years in prison for convictions of sexual penetration and indecent acts involving the two boys.
Pope Francis had already removed Pell as a member of his informal Cabinet in October.
Pell had maintained his position as prefect of the Vatican’s economy ministry, but his five-year term expired this month, acting Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said.
The Vatican has also banned Pell from public ministry or having contact with children.