Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of sexual offences in Australia, making him the highest-ranking Catholic figure to receive such a conviction.

Pell abused two choir boys in the rooms of a Melbourne cathedral in 1996, a jury found. He had pleaded not guilty.

The verdict was handed down in December, but it could not be reported until now due to legal reasons.

Pell is due to face sentencing hearings from Wednesday. He has lodged an appeal against his conviction.

As Vatican treasurer, the 77-year-old Australian was one of the Church’s most powerful officials.

According to reports,His trial was heard twice last year because a first jury failed to reach a verdict.

A second jury unanimously convicted him of one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16.