An Australian court has ruled that Vatican Treasurer George Pell must face trial on charges of historical sexual offences.
The decision makes Pell the most senior Catholic official to be tried on such allegations, to which he pleaded not guilty. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
On April 2, the prosecution and defence teams asked for the case to be split across two trials.
If a judge agrees, separate juries would hear allegations against Cardinal Pell about his time as a priest in the provincial city of Ballarat in the 1970s, and charges relating to when he was archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.
On Tuesday May 1, magistrate Belinda Wallington said Pell’s case will proceed to trial. She dismissed what Pell’s lawyer called “the worst of the charges” levelled against his client due to weakness of evidence.
However, Wallington ruled the evidence of the other accusers was credible enough to be believed by a jury. She said that there was no evidence they had colluded in what they told police, and that their allegations were not compromised by media reports (The Age).
Pell, 76, did not comment when he left the court. He is on a leave of absence from his role as economy minister to Pope Francis.
A statement issued by Pell’s lawyers said Pell had fully cooperated with police “and always and steadfastly maintained his innocence.”
Say what people need to knowTalk
2001: Appointed archbishop of Sydney by Pope John Paul II (ABCNews).
2003: Pope John Paul II makes Pell one of 31 new cardinals (ABCNews).
March 2014: Pell gives evidence to royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Sydney (ABCNews)
August 2014: Second royal commission appearance via videolink from the Vatican, to Melbourne hearing on the Melbourne Response.
February-March 2016: Third royal commission appearance, via videolink from Rome hotel conference room to Sydney.
June 2017: Charged with multiple, historical child sex offences. (Guardian).