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George Pell Has Right To Defend Himself: Vatican

A Vatican spokesman says the "painful" news of Cardinal George Pell's conviction for molesting choirboys in Australia has shocked many people, but adds that the prelate "has reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself" until the last level of justice.

Acting Holy See spokesman Alessandro Gisotti read a statement to reporters Tuesday at the Vatican but didn't take questions.

He said Pope Francis has confirmed "precautionary measures" already taken against Pell, including a ban on his saying Mass in public and "as is the rule, contact in any way or form with minors."

"We reiterate our utmost respect for the Australian judicial authorities. In the name of such respect, we now wait for the outcome of the appeal trial, recalling that Cardinal Pell has reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself" until the last appeal, the spokesman said.

Pell is Australia's highest-ranking Catholic and the most senior Catholic cleric ever charged with child sex abuse.

Meanwhile, Pell has been stripped of an honorary position at Richmond Football Club just hours after his conviction for child sex abuse was made public.

The club removed Pell as club vice-patron after his guilty verdict was revealed on Tuesday.

It was a largely symbolic role which he has held since 1997.

"While acknowledging his right to appeal, the club has formed a view that his association is no longer tenable or appropriate," the Richmond Football Club said in a statement.

Pell's relationship with the club stretches back to 1959 when he signed as a ruckman, playing for the reserves side before entering the priesthood.

He went on to become archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney before joining the Vatican.

St Patrick's College in Ballarat has removed Pell's name off a building which had been named in his honour.

Pell attended the boarding school from 1949 to 1959 and was later inducted a 'legend of the school'.

Headmaster John Crowley acknowledged Cardinal Pell may appeal the verdict, but said the college must respond to the jury's findings as they currently stand.

"The jury's verdict demonstrates that Cardinal Pell's behaviours have not met the standards we expect of those we honour as role models for the young men we educate," Mr Crowley said.

"The college aims at every opportunity to fulfil our mission of raising fine boys to the status of great men."

Pell Wing will be renamed Waterford Wing, while a line will be struck through his name on a college honour board.

An online petition calling for the Council for the Order of Australia to strip Pell of honours has also garnered more than 500 signatures in less than 24 hours.

Pell was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001 and appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2005.

"Pell must now be stripped of his Companion of the Order of Australia a la Rolf Harris," Senator Derryn Hinch said on Tuesday, citing the decision to strip Rolf Harris of his honours in 2015, eight months after being convicted of indecently assaulting four girls in the UK.

REACTION TO CARDINAL GEORGE PELL'S GUILTY VERDICT

THE VICTIMS

* "At some point, we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust." - surviving victim

* "This conviction is a reminder to survivors of abuse to feel empowered to tell their stories. Justice has prevailed and the nation is finally listening and addressing your pain." - lawyer Lisa Flynn, who represented child sexual assault victims

* "I'm utterly devastated about it ... There was no one for them at the bar table today." - lawyer Ingrid Irwin after a second trial which involved Pell and two of her clients was dropped

PELL'S LAWYER

* "Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so." - lawyer representing Pell, Paul Galbally

THE CHURCH

* "While acknowledging the judgment of the jury, I join many people who have been surprised and shaken by the outcome of the second trial." - Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli

* "We pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable." - Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

* "The institution has been brought to its knees. It has lost its credibility, frankly. It is still struggling to come to terms with that." - Francis Sullivan, former boss of the council that co-ordinated the church's royal commission response

COMMUNITY

* "Catholics today in Victoria, in Australia, vote with your feet. Have some backbone, walk out of the church house. They won't change." - child sexual abuse survivor advocate, Michael

* "To date, within the Catholic Church, it has been anything but fair, just, humane or moral." - Cathy Kezelman, president of the Blue Knot Foundation for adult survivors of child trauma

* "This is is a momentous event, as part of the continuing drama of the Catholic catastrophe." - former Catholic priest turned child abuse victims advocate Professor Des Cahill

* "Thank you to some of the bravest men in Australia and their families for trusting me." - investigative journalist Louise Milligan

* "You're going to burn in hell. Burn in hell, Pell." - a bystander as Pell left court

* "Cardinal Pell's behaviours have not met the standards we expect of those we honour as role models for the young men we educate." - St Patrick's College headmaster John Crowley, having removed Pell's name from a building which had been named in his honour

POLITICIANS

* "Like most Australians, I am deeply shocked at the crimes of which George Pell has been convicted. I respect the fact that this case is under appeal, but it is the victims and their families I am thinking of today, and all who have suffered from sexual abuse by those they should have been able to trust, but couldn't." - Prime Minister Scott Morrison

* "My thoughts are with the victims - their pain is a tragedy, their bravery an inspiration. They've been betrayed and so have good people of faith across Victoria." - Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

* "(I'm) absolutely shocked and disgusted by the details I've read today and I think everybody would feel the same. There are no words to describe how horrible those incidents were." - NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

* "Finally, the good news is that now George Pell's decades of predatory behaviour is out there for all to see." - Senator Derryn Hinch

* "It is truly wonderful to live in a country where no one is above the law, where any person can seek access to justice and to see that justice done." - Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek

AAP

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