VERONA, Italy — Cardinal George Pell has been convicted in Australia on charges related to sexual abuse, according to two sources familiar with the case and other media reports, becoming the highest ranking Vatican official to face such a punishment.

The conviction provides one of the clearest examples to date of how the sexual abuse scandal has eroded the church’s credibility while ensnaring figures in the upper echelons of power. Pell, who has categorically declared his innocence, had taken a leave of absence from the Vatican’s third most powerful position, as the economy minister, to fight the charges.

The Vatican on Wednesday did not address the explosive case, but it did announce that in October Pope Francis had removed Pell from his advisory group known as the Council of Cardinals, along with a Chilean cardinal, Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, who is accused of covering up for abusive priests.

The Pell conviction was first reported by the Daily Beast, which said that the charges stemmed from the abuse of two choir boys in the 1990s. His case in Melbourne has unfolded in secrecy because of a court-issued gag order.

That order has led to a blackout in Australia about the news of a figure who was once among the country’s most highly regarded Catholic leaders.

Australian media did not carry headlines about the case, but some wrote cryptic stories explaining that significant news had unfolded but was unreportable.


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