MELBOURNE – Cardinal George Pell, who is one of the most senior officials in the Vatican, appeared today (Wednesday) before the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a first hearing on the historical sexual assault charges filed against him by Victoria Police in June.
Pell’s lawyer told the court that the cardinal would plead not guilty to the multiple charges. Pell, 76, a top adviser of Pope Francis and Vatican treasurer has consistently and strongly denied the accusations.
The cardinal is being represented by Robert Richter QC, one of Australia’s leading criminal law offices.
Pell was charged by Victoria Police in connection with abuse of minors by priests in Australia, which he had denied covering up when he served as Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 t0 2001.
Pell however admitted that his late predecessor, Archbishop Frank Little, destroyed documents pertaining to the abuse incidents to protect the errant priests.
Victoria State Deputy Police Commissioner Shane Patton said in a news conference last month that “the process and the procedures that have been followed in the charging of Cardinal Pell have been the same that have been applied in a whole range of historical sex offenses whenever we investigate them. Cardinal Pell has been treated the same as anyone else in this investigation.”
Pell was reportedly accorded a leave of absence from his role at the Vatican as Secretariat for the Economy while he faces the case in Melbourne.
A CNN report said a throng of journalists followed Pell as he entered and exited the court house, prompting police to help clear the way for the cardinal as supporters and protestors crowded outside the courthouse for a glimpse of the Cardinal.
Pell will appear again before the court on Sept. 8. GAC/Expat Media
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