The Associated Press
March 29, 2018
An Australian magistrate on Thursday closed a monthlong court hearing of evidence on whether the most senior Vatican cleric ever charged in the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis will stand trial.
Belinda Wallington told the Melbourne Magistrates Court she would make her decision after lawyers make their final submissions on April 17 as to whether prosecutors have a strong enough case against Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, currently on a leave of absence as head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, to warrant a trial by jury.
Pell was charged last June with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the 76-year-old cardinal have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as “historical” sexual assault offenses – meaning the crimes allegedly occurred decades ago.
Pell has not been required to enter pleas, but has said through his lawyers he will plead not guilty to all counts if ordered to stand trial.
The cardinal has attended every day of the four-week preliminary hearing. The first two weeks were closed to the public as his alleged victims testified via a video link to the court. Such closed courts are standard in Victoria when alleged sex abuse victims testify.
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