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Cardinal Pell to remain on leave after indictment - Vatican says

02 May, 2018, 02:15 | Author: Ted Wilson
  • The 76-year-old faced a four week-long pre-trial committal hearing in March

After a monthlong pre-trial hearing, an Australian magistrate ordered Cardinal Pell to stand trial on multiple charges of sexual abuse of minors, charges the cardinal consistently has denied. "Not guilty", the 76-year-old answered in a firm, loud voice, according to reporters present.

He will next appear in court on Wednesday in Melbourne.

This handout picture released on March 4, 2013 by the Vatican press office shows Cardinals Angelo Sodano (C) and cardinal chamberlain Tarcisio Bertone (R) opening talks ahead of a conclave to elect a new pope after Benedict XVI's resignation, as an absent British cardinal admitted to sexual misconduct with priests. He has taken a leave of absense for the court case.

He entered a plea of not guilty, but Belinda Wallington, the Melbourne Magistrate decided that the prosecution's case on some of the charges were strong enough to warrant a trial by jury. Further details of the nature of the charges are unable to be reported for legal reasons.

Since Cardinal Pell returned to Australia from the Vatican in July, he has lived in Sydney and flown to Melbourne for his court hearings.

"He will defend the remaining charges", the statement said.

Lawyers for Australia's highest-ranking Catholic had argued the accusations were untrue and should be dismissed.

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"I'm looking forward, finally, to having my day in court", said Pell in June 2017.

But his patrician manner and perceived lack of empathy toward victims under his watch made Pell the focus of much anger in the disgruntled Catholic community.

Ms Wallington struck out allegations Cardinal Pell sexually assaulted an accuser in a Ballarat cinema during a screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and at other locations in Ballarat, because there were inconsistencies in the complainant's account and "a fundamental defect in the evidence" overall, related to other witnesses and historical records.

But she was satisfied a jury could potentially convict Pell based on the evidence from a separate complainant who alleged Pell offended against him.

A national inquiry into the institutional responses to child sex abuse in Australia between 1950 and 2010 found that seven percent of Catholic priests were accused, but that the allegations were never investigated. At one point, the lawyer, Robert Richter, accused the magistrate of bias and asked her to step down from the case.

Throughout the committal Pell sat each day in courtroom 22 in the same seat, head bowed, sometimes taking notes, always dressed in the same outfit: black trousers, black shirt and a beige jacket. After the magistrate read the judgment and left the room, there was clapping from the public section of the court.

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