May 24, 2019
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Pope starts new year as Catholic leader amid storm of sexual abuse scandal

Vatican City, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- The pope looks set to start his seventh year as head of the Roman Catholic Church on the same day a high-ranking Australian cardinal is sentenced for pedophilia.

Pope Francis was elected as leader on Mar. 13, 2013. According to his calendar, he will spend Wednesday this year performing an annual spiritual retreat in Ariccia, near Rome.

The same day, Cardinal George Pell will be sentenced in Melbourne, Australia, for sexually abusing two boys in 1996.

Pell, 77, was once the third-most powerful figure at the Vatican and is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be convicted of pedophilia.

He was found guilty by a court in Australia of five charges of sexual abuse of minors including penetration.

The offenses were committed soon after he was installed as the archbishop of Melbourne and around the same time he established the Melbourne Response in 1996, which offered counseling and economic support service to victims of abuse.

He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each charge and has lodged an appeal against his conviction.

It is one of a number of child sexual abuse and cover-up scandals the Catholic Church and Francis is currently facing.

The pope called an unprecedented four-day summit in the Vatican in February on the crisis.

French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 68, the Archbishop of Lyon, was given a six month suspended prison sentence last week for covering up sexual abuse committed by a pedophile priest under his supervision.

The pope's ambassador to France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, 74, is being investigated for allegedly committing sexual assault against a Paris city hall worker.

Argentine bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, 54, is under investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct with trainee priests.

Chilean Cardinals Javier Errazuriz and Riccardo Ezzati are also being investigated for allegedly covering up pedophile priests.

The coming year will also see a new constitution reforming the Curia, the church’s administrative unit, and Vatican Government system.

The pope will continue his pontificate with a number of international visits, including upcoming trips to Morocco, Bulgaria and Macedonia.

He is also scheduled to travel to Madagascar and Mozambique and in Nov. to Japan.

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