At a servo on the road to Sydney, Pell says he’s ‘very pleased’ to be free

Cardinal George Pell is on his way to Sydney a day after he was freed from jail following the High Court's decision to quash his convictions for child-sex offences.

The 78-year-old spent his first night of freedom at the Carmelite Monastery in Kew, which survivor advocates decorated in ribbons and childrens' toys overnight.

Cardinal George Pell at a service station on WednesdayCredit:Nine News

Cardinal Pell left the monastery on Wednesday morning, with a source confirming he was on his way to Sydney.

At a service station on the Hume Highway, he spoke briefly to members of the media as he walked from his parked car.

When asked if he was surprised by Tuesday's verdict, Cardinal Pell replied: "Not in the slightest".

"I was very pleased," he said.

Ribbons and a child’s toy are seen at the gate of the Carmelite Monastery in Kew.Credit:AAP

The cardinal was dressed casually in a light-coloured buttoned shirt, a blue jacket with the zip undone, black slacks and black shoes, with a red pen placed in his shirt pocket. He was not wearing a clerical collar and walked slowly with a slightly hunched back.

Exiting the service station, he asked the press pack to move out his way and allow a path back to his waiting car. "Excuse me, social distance," he said as he gesticulated with his arms for the huddle to make way.

Inside the service station he was holding a product that appeared to be a phone charger.

The cardinal was the archbishop of Sydney from 2001 before leaving in 2014 for the Vatican, where he was Pope Francis' finance chief.

Cardinal Pell leaves the Kew monastery where he spent his first night of freedom.Credit:AAP

He also spent time in Sydney during some of the court proceedings.

Within hours of the High Court's ruling, Cardinal Pell was released from Barwon Prison and driven in a four-car convoy to the Carmelite Monastery in Kew.

He spent more than 400 days in jail after he was found guilty of five charges related to allegations he sexually assaulted two choirboys in the 1990s in St Patrick's Cathedral in East Melbourne. He was archbishop of Melbourne at the time.

The other former choirboy died in 2014 aged 31, having never spoken to police.

Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli told radio station 3AW he has not yet spoken to Cardinal Pell, whom he said was effectively retired.

Cardinal Pell's accuser, known as Witness J, said he was relieved the appeals process was over in a statement released the day after Australia's seven most senior judges unanimously agreed that a County Court jury in 2018, and later the Court of Appeal, should have found there was a reasonable doubt about Cardinal Pell's guilt.

"I understand why criminal cases must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. No-one wants to live in a society where people can be imprisoned without due and proper process. This is a basic civil liberty," Witness J said in his statement through his lawyer Dr Vivian Waller.

"My journey has been long and I am relieved that it is over. I have my ups and downs. The darkness is never far away. Despite the stress of the legal process and public controversy I have tried hard to keep myself together. I am OK. I hope that everyone who has followed this case is OK.

Workers cover graffiti at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne.Credit:AAP

"This case does not define me," he said.

"I am a man who came forward for my friend who, sadly, is no longer with us. I am a man doing my best to be a loving dad, partner, son, brother and friend. I am doing my best to find and hold joy in my life and to provide a safe and loving home for my family."

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636.

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