Prosecutors to Drop Some Sex-Offense Charges Against Cardinal Pell

The Wall Street Journal

March 23, 2018

By Robb M. Stewart

Hearings continue on whether charges of historical sexual offenses against Vatican finance chief will go to trial

Several charges against Cardinal George Pell, one of the Vatican’s most senior officials, will be dropped, prosecutors said Friday.

At the conclusion of the third of four weeks of hearings to determine whether charges of historical sexual offenses will go to trial, prosecutor Mark Gibson told the court that a scheduled witness wouldn’t be able to testify for unspecified medical reasons. He said charges would be withdrawn formally next week.

One charge against Cardinal Pell, Pope Francis ’ finance chief, was dropped as the pretrial hearings began.

Mr. Pell stepped away from his role at the Vatican last year, after police in Australia’s southern Victoria state in late June charged the cardinal with multiple historical sexual offenses. The number and nature of the charges, which involve multiple complainants, haven’t been disclosed. Mr. Pell has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and, through his lawyer, indicated a plea of not guilty to all charges.

The hearings allow the defense to examine statements made by dozens of witnesses named by the prosecution.

Mr. Gibson offered to produce a medical certificate for the witness, but Cardinal Pell’s lawyers said it wouldn’t be necessary.

Born in 1941 in the historic gold-rush town of Ballarat in southeastern Australia, Mr. Pell studied for the priesthood in Australia and Rome and was ordained in late 1966. He rose through the church’s ranks in Australia, working in parishes around Melbourne and in senior roles in Catholic education.

In 1987 Mr. Pell was ordained as auxiliary bishop of the Melbourne archdiocese. Pope John Paul II appointed him seventh metropolitan archbishop in 1996 and archbishop of Sydney five years later.

In February 2014, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Pell prefect of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy at the Vatican.

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