CANBERRA, Australia -- The Australian High Court has agreed to hear an appeal bid by Cardinal George Pell, a convicted pedophile who is serving a six-year jail sentence for child sex abuse.
Pell's lawyers had filed a 12-page application for leave to appeal in September to the highest court in the Australian judicial system in an effort to overturn the conviction.
On Wednesday morning, a panel of two High Court justices, Michelle Gordon and James Edelman, agreed that the matter be referred to the full bench of the court "for argument as on an appeal."
"The parties will be made aware of the directions necessary for undertaking that hearing," Gordon said in a two-sentence directive during Wednesday's court proceedings at the High Court in Canberra.
Pell's lawyers will now have to prepare and lodge a submission for the appeal, which will be heard by the full bench of seven justices in the High Court at a later date, most likely only next year.
Technically, Pell has not won the right to appeal since the full bench appeal hearing will consider both the application for special leave to appeal, and the appeal itself, argued at the same time.
The Court of Appeals in Melbourne heard his first appeal in a similar way in June. Ten weeks later, the three justices handed down a majority two-to-one decision rejecting Pell's appeal and upholding the conviction.
The former Vatican treasurer and one-time close adviser to Pope Francis was convicted by a 12-member jury in December of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at a Melbourne Cathedral in the mid-1990s. He was sentenced in March to six years in prison.
Pell, 78, continues to maintain his innocence. He is currently in solitary confinement in the Melbourne Assessment Prison and did not attend the Wednesday hearing at the High Court in Australia's capital, Canberra.
The High Court application remains Pell's last chance for freedom.