An Australian priest was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Monday, after being convicted of raping the 12-year-old son of his dying friend.

Paul Pavlou, 59, who was studying to become a priest in 2003 when the incidents occurred, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16. He had initially claimed he could not recall committing the crimes when the victim reported Pavlou’s actions to the police 13 years later, the Age reported.

When his best friend was dying of cancer and his wife was working three jobs to support their six children, Pavlou offered “respite” to the family. While his offer seemed generous initially, he soon used the opportunity to rape his friend’s 12-year-old son on three occasions.

During his trial, the Victorian county court heard that Pavlou would frequently stay over at his friend's family home as well as invite the boy over to his house. Every time he sexually molested the victim, he called the latter a “special child” and a “child of God.”

The victim, who was now an adult, told the court via videoconferencing recently that the priest’s actions destroyed his childhood as he cried himself to sleep for years after the incidents. "To betray your dying best friend [and his partner] ... by raping their young son is one of the most evil acts I've ever heard of ... even worse than murder," the unidentified man told the court during the trial.

Before announcing the verdict, the presiding judge condemned Pavlou’s actions.

"[The victim's] family looked to you as a figure of learning, a mentor, and a person who could be trusted implicitly," Judge Greg Lyon said. “Your acts deserve utter condemnation. Your abuse of [the] family's trust and your callousness in taking advantage of their dire situation in order to meet your lascivious and depraved desires is utterly disgraceful. Your supposed calling as a priest can only be seen as a part of this whole sham."

"Your offences in the family home were just brazen," he added. “It says something of your ability to delude yourself that you were able to take your ordination vows knowing you had committed these horrendous offences."

In addition to 10 years in prison, out of which he had already served 203 days in custody, Pavlou was ordered to enter his name in the sex offender’s registry for lifetime. He would be eligible for parole after seven years.

After getting ordained, Pavlou was also charged with molesting an altar boy. When the police searched his computer, they found 90 images of pubescent and adolescent boys, after which additional charges of child pornography possession was filed against him. At the time, he told authorities that the altar boy had falsely set him up and that the photos got accidentally downloaded into his computer when he clicked on some pop-up windows while browsing the internet.

This is a representational image. Getty Images/Dan Kitwood