Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney
1 MAY 2018
Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s treasurer, has become the most senior Catholic figure to face sexual assault charges after a court in Melbourne committed him to stand trial on historical offences involving multiple victims.
After being asked for a plea, 76-year-old Pell, a trusted aide of Pope Francis, stated firmly and loudly: “Not guilty”.
Magistrate Belinda Wallington dismissed about half the charges because of a lack of evidence or concerns about witness credibility. These included – according to Pell’s lawyer – the more “vile” of the alleged offences.
But Ms Wallington ordered the Cardinal to face a trial by jury for alleged sexual offending at a pool in the 1970s in Ballarat, near Melbourne, and at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s when he was the city’s Archbishop. After the magistrate left the court, a group of the Cardinal’s critics broke into applause.
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