Cardinal George Pell has this morning been committed to stand trial on multiple historical sex offence charges, making him the most senior catholic to face criminal charges.
Melbourne Magistrate Belinda Wellington has committed Pell to face charges against multiple complainants.
The ABC is reporting that he will front a jury on roughly half of the offences that he has been charged with.
One involved complaints over sexual offending allegations at a Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s, when he was a priest. Another related to an alleged incident at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne during the 1990s, when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
The 76-year-old pleaded not guilty to the charges in his first formally entered plea.
He was placed on bail following this morning’s hearing. He has forfeited his passport and has vowed not leave Australia.
Pell will return to court tomorrow where the magistrate will set a date for his trial.
Multiple charges including what were considered to be the most serious of allegations made against him were dismissed by the Magistrate on grounds of insufficient weight of evidence.
Pell’s defence barrister, Robert Richter QC, made it clear that the most “vile” of the charges had been dismissed.
Pell has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual abuse, even going as far as to describe the idea as “abhorrent”, and claimed to be the victim of character assassination.
Cardinal Pell is the third-most senior figure at the Vatican and has been the Vatican’s treasurer since 2014. He has taken a leave of absence from the Vatican in order to clear his name.
The complexities of the case and the trial mean that there is limited detail that has been made public. Evidence from the trial remains confidential.