The Vatican has responded for the first time to news of Cardinal George Pell‘s conviction of child sex offences, issuing a statement through interim director of the Holy See press office Alessandro Gisotti.

Until now, the Vatican has not responded directly to the charges against Pell or his conviction. At the time that he was convicted, back in December of last year, Pell was removed from the Council of Cardinal Advisers alongside two other cardinals, with no specific reason given.

Speaking to reporters, Gisotti said that the news was “painful“, but that the Holy See was waiting on the outcome of the appeal process, stressing that Pell has “the right to defend himself until the last stage of appeal“.

Gisotti said that the Pope had confirmed restrictions placed on Pell when he initially returned to Australia to face trial, namely that he would not be allowed contact with minors or allowed to perform public ministry. It is understood that these restrictions were first placed on Pell in Australia before being confirmed by the Pope.

Image: Getty Images / AAP Image