Former Foreign Minister George Yeo has weighed in on Australian Cardinal George Pell's conviction, saying that he believes the cardinal has "strong grounds for appeal against his conviction", having followed the details of the landmark court case.
Pell, the most senior Vatican official to be found guilty of child sex crimes, is currently in detention awaiting sentencing for assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne more than two decades ago.
Pell was found guilty on five charges of child sexual offences.
The verdict was made public on Feb. 26, following the lifting of a court suppression order on the trial.
A jury in the Country Court of Victoria in Melbourne found Pell guilty on Dec. 11, 2018.
However, the Vatican's former treasurer maintains his innocence and an appeal is scheduled for June 2019.
Yeo told Mothership.sg that he prayed that "the Appeals Court will find in his favour", referring to Pell.
Yeo said he believes Pell "is innocent on the basis of what I know of the case and of the man".
Pell and Yeo worked together at Vatican Council for the Economy
In a Facebook post published on March 7, Yeo recalled his experiences working with Pell.
He first received a phone call from Pell to participate in an administrative reform commission called The Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA).
COSEA, an eight-person commission looking into the administrative or financial reform of the Vatican, was established by Pope Francis a few months after he was elected.
In February 2014, Yeo became a member of the Vatican Council for the Economy that meets four to five times a year.
Yeo noted that Pell was always present at the meetings, and he got to know Pell well and developed a "deep respect for his sense of mission".
He added that Pell's recent conviction and imprisonment had filled him and many others with pain.
Yeo's FB post generated angry comments
Yeo's post in support of Pell has generated angry comments from commenters, with several asking why Yeo is praying for Pell's acquittal.
In response to media queries, Yeo told Mothership.sg:
"I understand some of the angry comments to my FB posts because of the widespread revulsion against the sexual abuse of minors in Australia and other countries and the cover-up by the church hierarchy".
Yeo went on to elaborate that the sexual abuse of minors was the subject of a recent conference convened in the Vatican by the Pope.
He emphasised that the Pope is "determined to root and stamp out this deep problem in the Catholic Church".
Yeo: Problem of sexual abuse not a major one in Singapore
Yeo also addressed the issue of whether the sexual abuse problem was prevalent in the Singapore archdiocese.
Yeo said that Archbishop William Goh, the head of the Catholic Church in Singapore, is "seized by this challenge" and wrote an unequivocal letter to all Catholics last September.
In his letter, Goh explained to Catholics in Singapore that allegations of child abuse are handed over to the Professional Standards Office (PSO) of the Archdiocese for investigation.
Goh added that any allegations of abuse must now be reported to the police when the PSO takes up the case.
Goh said that there has been "no cover-up" in the Singapore church, and all the cases have been judged to be inconclusive by the PSO, and confirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
Hence, Yeo noted that while this problem is not a major one here, the Singapore Catholic Church must ensure that adequate safeguards are in place.
He also urged the Church to act swiftly when incidents take place, and see that justice is done, and to look after the victims.
Top photo from George Yeo Facebook page