Cardinal George Pell has revealed prison life was "not too bad" as he wasted no time leaving Victoria and fled to Sydney following his acquittal.
After waking on his first day of freedom in more than a year, Cardinal Pell left the Carmelite Monastery in Melbourne for a 10-hour road trip to Sydney.
Looking tired, he arrived at around 9pm at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush where he has lived briefly in the past.
He will initially stay at the seminary for trainee priests, but the Catholic church would not comment on his movements.
Media followed him from Melbourne up the Hume Highway and spoke to him when he and his driver stopped at a service station in Glenrowan in northern Victoria.
"I was very pleased," he said about Tuesday's High Court ruling which quashed his convictions of sexually abusing two choir boys in 1996.
"Before you arrived, it was better here," he told media with a laugh when asked about life behind bars, before adding his prison experience was "not too bad". He joked as well about not being better dressed - he wasn't expecting company on the drive, he said.
He didn't comment as the car pulled into the seminary's driveway in front a large media pack and a heavy police presence.
Cardinal Pell was put up by the Sydney archdiocese in 2018 after he returned from his job as Vatican treasurer to fight the abuse charges, having previously served as Archbishop of Sydney.
His departure from Melbourne came hours after the former choir boy who accused him of rape released a statement revealing he respects the High Court's decision and accepts the outcome.
Known as "J", he came forward in 2014 after the death of his friend.
"It is difficult in chid sexual abuse matters to satisfy a criminal court that the offending has occurred beyond the shadow of a doubt," he said.
He hopes the outcome won't discourage child sexual abuse survivors from coming forward, reassuring them "most people recognise the truth when they hear it ... I am content with that".
In a statement on Tuesday, Cardinal Pell said he bears no ill-will toward the man, now in his 30s.
The decision has been divisive and police are now investigating the vandalism of Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral.
"Rot in Hell Pell" was emblazoned on the doors of the cathedral where he was alleged to have abused the two choirboys.
The High Court ruled on Tuesday there was insufficient evidence to convict Cardinal Pell, quashing five convictions. He was freed from prison within hours.
Overnight the words "the law protects the powerful" were also spray-painted on the cathedral forecourt.
Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said he wasn't surprised by the vandalism.
"There's such strong emotions around all of these matters," he told Melbourne's 3AW radio on Wednesday
He said he hoped people would consider the High Court judgment and see the decision in its legal context, but expects they will keep their original positions about the cardinal.
What's next remains unclear.
Cardinal Pell's position as Vatican Treasurer was filled in his absence, putting him effectively in retirement.
His former private secretary Father Mark Withoos told Sydney's 2GB radio if it weren't for the coronavirus crisis "perhaps those involved in this terrible miscarriage of justice would be forced to resign".
Premier Daniel Andrews has refused to comment on the High Court's decision, but on Wednesday said people, particularly Catholics, had to face the fact there are people who moved predators across parishes.
"Others who knew that it was going on facilitated it and whether they're in jail or not, they'll have to go to their maker knowing they did those sorts of things," he told radio station Triple M.
The Vatican welcomed Cardinal Pell's acquittal, praising him for waiting "for the truth to be ascertained".
Australian Associated Press