THE Vatican Treasurer, Cardinal George Pell, has been committed to trial in Australia on historical sexual abuse charges.
Cardinal Pell, the most senior Australian Roman Catholic cleric, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday. He has always strenuously denied all allegations of sexual abuse.
After a month-long committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, the magistrate, Belinda Wallington, dismissed about half the original charges.
He will, however, be tried on charges of alleged sexual offending at a swimming pool in Ballarat in the 1970s and at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, in the 1990s when he was RC Archbishop of Melbourne. Details of the charges have not been made public.
Cardinal Pell, who is on leave from his Vatican post, has been required to surrender his passport and to remain in Australia. A directions hearing will be held this week. A date for the start of the trial has yet to be announced.
Last year, before returning to Australia, Cardinal Pell said that he was “totally innocent of these charges” and complained of “relentless character assassination”.
“I’m looking forward, finally, to my day in court,” he said. “The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me” (News, 7 July 2017).
After serving as Archbishop of Melbourne, he was later Archbishop of Sydney. The Pope appointed him, in 2013, to serve on a panel of cardinals advising on the reform of the Curia. In 2014, he was appointed Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See, one of the most senior offices in the Vatican.