Cardinal George Pell: Vatican treasurer to stand trial for sex offences

The 76-year-old faced a four week-long pre-trial committal hearing in March

The 76-year-old faced a four week-long pre-trial committal hearing in March

Cardinal George Pell has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges after an Australian magistrate ordered the most senior Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis to stand trial. After a monthlong pre-trial hearing, an Australian magistrate ordered Cardinal Pell to stand trial on multiple charges of sexual abuse of minors, charges the cardinal consistently has denied.

Pell stands as the most senior Vatican official to face charges in the Catholic Church's widespread sex-abuse scandal.

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Victoria Police charged him previous year after multiple people reported him for sexual misconduct in his home state of Victoria.

The Holy See released a statement late Tuesday evening in which it said Cardinal Pell's leave as the Vatican's treasurer would continue into the next stage of court proceedings.

Pell - who is presently free on bail but has had his passport confiscated - will now face a directions hearing in the County Court tomorrow morning, where the trial date will likely be set.

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The Guardian reported that a group of charges related to alleged offences that occurred against two complainants between July 1996 and December 1997.

Pell accused of committing violent sexual acts against boys in his younger years when he served as a priest in his native town of Ballarat, and later in Melbourne as Archbishop.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington dismissed some of the charges that had been heard in the four-week preliminary hearing in Melbourne, but decided the prosecution's case against Cardinal Pell was strong enough to warrant a trial by jury. More precise details about the charges were not made public.

In an interview, Mr. Bosland added: "The problem in Australia is that the courts tend to make orders that don't comply with the strict requirements of the law".

In a win for him, some of the most serious allegations were dismissed due to inconsistencies in the evidence, including claims of offending at a cinema in Ballarat during a screening of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

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The Herald Sun said the magistrate found that the complainant behind at least one of the charges was an unsatisfactory witness.

At one point, his barrister Robert Richter accused Wallington of being biased towards the prosecutors, and said the case should be thrown out as the complainants were unreliable and not credible.

Pell testified to the inquiry in a video link from the Vatican about his time as a priest and bishop in Australia.

Pope Francis granted Pell a leave of absence past year to defend himself.

Flanked by up to 40 police officers, Cardinal Pell arrived at the court on Tuesday in a white sedan just after 9am.

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