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Cardinal Faces ‘Historical’ Sexual Abuse Charges
Cardinal Faces ‘Historical’ Sexual Abuse Charges

Cardinal Faces ‘Historical’ Sexual Abuse Charges

Cardinal Faces ‘Historical’ Sexual Abuse Charges

Silent but defiant, Cardinal George Pell made his first court appearance in Australia on Wednesday on charges of sexual abuse, vowing through his lawyer to fight the allegations that have rocked Rome and threatened the pope’s image as a crusader against abusive clergy.
Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic and Pope Francis’ top financial adviser, is accused of sexually abusing multiple people years ago in his Australian home state of Victoria, making him the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis. Details of the charges have yet to be released to the public, though police have described them as “historical” sexual assault offenses - meaning crimes that occurred years ago, AP reported.
Pell has not yet entered a plea. But on Wednesday, his lawyer told the court that the 76-year-old cardinal plans to formally plead not guilty at a future court date.
“For the avoidance of doubt and because of the interest, I might indicate that Cardinal Pell pleads not guilty to all charges and will maintain the presumed innocence that he has,” lawyer Robert Richter told the court.
Pell entered the small courtroom dressed in a black suit, face devoid of expression as he took a seat behind his legal team. He said nothing during the hearing, or to the hordes of journalists who swarmed around him as he left the courthouse.
The hearing itself lasted just minutes and was remarkably routine. Yet the image of one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church standing before a cramped courtroom overflowing with reporters and spectators was anything but that.
Though many clerics have faced allegations of sex abuse in recent years, Pell is by far the highest-ranking church official ever charged, and his case has shaken the Vatican.
After years of alleged cover-ups and silence from the church over its pedophilia scandal, abuse survivors and their advocates hailed the prosecution of Pell as a monumental shift in the way society is responding to the crisis.
As Pell left the courthouse, a dozen Victoria police officers formed a protective circle around him, pushing their way through a media scrum as protesters shouted at the cardinal.
“You were supposed to protect the children!”

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