UPDATE, 5.30pm: Cardinal George Pell has one last hope of overturning his child sexual abuse convictions after being given the right to argue for an appeal to Australia's highest court.
The full bench of the High Court will next year hear appeal arguments by the world's most senior Catholic to be jailed for sexually abusing children.
While Ballarat-born Pell was said to be pleased, the father of one of his two victims was devastated at Wednesday's decision by Justices James Edelman and Michelle Gordon to refer the matter to the full court.
Pell's lawyers, his spokesperson and the surviving victim declined to comment given the case is still before the courts.
But lawyer Lisa Flynn said the father of the second victim, who died aged 31 from a drug overdose in 2014, was devastated.
"He was really hopeful that this would be over for him today because as the process goes on, and has gone on for some time, it is extremely re-traumatising for him," she told reporters in Brisbane.
The surviving victim's lawyer Vivian Waller said they will await the outcome of the High Court appeal.
"The appeals process is a very important part of the checks and balances of the criminal justice system," Dr Waller told AAP.
"Both my client and I are deeply respectful of that process."
Pell's lawyers told the former Vatican treasurer of Wednesday's decision during a visit to the Melbourne Assessment Prison.
The hearing will be held before five or all seven High Court judges, with March said to be the earliest possible date.
Pell, 78, was jailed for six years for sexually assaulting the two choirboys at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral while Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.
Victoria's Court of Appeal upheld the five convictions in a 2-1 decision in August.Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said the appeal court's divided judgment reflected the divided opinion within the community and among legal commentators and jurors, referring to the hung jury that preceded a retrial's unanimous guilty verdicts.
Pell, Australia's most senior Catholic, has always maintained his innocence.
The High Court did not formally grant or refuse Pell's written application for special leave to appeal, instead referring the matter to the full court.
After hearing the matter, the court could refuse the application for special leave or approve it and either allow or dismiss the appeal.
The referral was basically the same as a grant of leave, the University of Melbourne's Jeremy Gans said.
Prof Gans said a referral, instead of a grant of leave, was rare and never explained by the court.
"For what it's worth, it means that the court has not yet decided that the case is actually worth deciding, just that it's worth hearing. Go figure,'' he tweeted.
The appeal will delay any action against Pell by the Vatican, which has said it will let him exhaust all legal avenues of appeal before taking up its own canon law investigation.
The dead victim's father has written to the Pope asking him to explain why Pell remains a cardinal and has not been defrocked.
Archbishop Fisher said the church would continue to offer pastoral support to Pell while he remained in prison awaiting the appeal, as well as all people affected by the case.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the appeal would prolong an already lengthy and difficult process, but he hoped the High Court's judgment "will bring clarity and a resolution for all".
EARLIER: The High Court will hear Cardinal George Pell's appeal against his convictions for child-sex crimes, keeping his hopes of an early release from prison alive.
Australia's highest court announced on Wednesday it had granted Ballarat-born Pell special leave to appeal his five convictions on the five child sex abuse charges he was found guilty of last year.
It is the 78-year-old's only remaining legal avenue to clear his name.
The decision means the Vatican will likely delay taking any action against Pell, who retains his title of Cardinal.
The pending court case will also delay the release of any findings against Pell made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. To date, the commission's findings about Pell remain redacted.
Pell, 78, was found guilty by a jury of the rape of a 13-year-old choirboy and sexual assault of another at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996 but Australia's most senior Catholic has always denied any wrongdoing.
The Victorian Court of Appeal in August upheld a jury verdict convicting Pell in a 2-1 ruling.
In a 12-page application for special leave to the High Court, Pell's lawyers argued Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell made two errors in dismissing the earlier appeal.
Bret Walker SC and Ruth Shann say a mistake occurred because Pell was required to prove the offending was impossible, rather than leaving that onus to prosecutors.
Secondly, they argued the judges erred in not finding the jury's verdicts unreasonable, claiming there was reasonable doubt about whether opportunity existed for the crimes to have occurred.
They also claimed that changes in law over the decades since the crimes were said to have occurred make it more difficult to test sex assault allegations.
They argued Pell should be acquitted of all charges for a number of reasons including inconsistencies in the complainant's version of events.
But prosecutors argued there is no basis for the appeal, and the Victorian courts did not make an error.
Pell is serving a six-year jail term and won't be eligible for parole until he has served three years and eight months of his sentence.
He has been behind bars since March, 2019.
Affected by this story? There is help available.
- You can phone CASA, Sebastopol on 5320 3933, or free-call the crisis care line 24 hours on 1800 806 292.
- Or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380, or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.