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xmas 2019 wings

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Vatican acknowledges Pell appeal bid

The Vatican has again noted George Pell's claim to innocence ahead of a High Court bid to overturn the Catholic cardinal's child sexual abuse convictions.

The Holy See released a brief statement overnight Australian time.

"While reiterating its trust in the Australian justice system, the Holy See acknowledges the decision of Australia's High Court to accept Cardinal George Pell's request of appeal," it said.

The Holy See said it was "aware the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence".

"At this time, the Holy See reaffirms once again its closeness to those who have suffered because of sexual abuse on the part of members of the clergy."

Pell, 78, is the most senior Catholic cleric to be jailed for sexually abusing children.

It will be months before the outcome of his final legal avenue to overturn his convictions will be known.

The full bench of the High Court isn't likely to gather for a hearing until March next year, although a firm date is still to be set.

The appeal process has delayed any action the Vatican might take against Pell, including defrocking.

Pell was jailed for six years for sexually assaulting two choirboys at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

This year, Victoria's Court of Appeal upheld the five convictions in a 2-1 decision.

Pell's legal team went to the High Court which on Wednesday agreed to refer the case to the full court.

After hearing legal arguments, the High Court could refuse or approve Pell's application. It could also allow or dismiss the appeal.

The father of one of Pell's two victims, who died aged 31 from a drug overdose in 2014, was devastated at Wednesday's decision.

"He was hopeful that it would all be over today as he continues to be re-traumatised by the unending legal action," his lawyer said.

The surviving victim said through his lawyers he respected the appeal process.

Neither victim can be named.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge hopes the appeal will be heard as soon as possible and the High Court's final judgment "will bring clarity and a resolution for all".

© AAP 2019