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Principale » Top Vatican official Cardinal George Pell heads to court on historic day

Top Vatican official Cardinal George Pell heads to court on historic day

26 Juillet 2017

The 76-year-old, a top advisor to Pope Francis, returned from Rome earlier this month to face multiple charges in Melbourne relating to offences allegedly committed decades ago, when he was a senior cleric in Australia.

Pell is the third highest ranking official in the Vatican and the highest ranking Catholic church official to be charged with sex offences.

Outside the Melbourne Magistrate's court on Wednesday, members of the public - as well as a teeming worldwide press pack - gathered to await the Cardinal's appearance.

It is an administrative procedure to set the next dates for the court process and may take less than five minutes. Despite the routine nature of the hearing, it has drawn hordes of journalists, abuse survivors and spectators.

Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied the allegations against him and said he looks forward to clearing his name.

The court will operate on a "business as usual" basis, with Pell expected to line up and clear security screening as he enters the court building.

Pell supporter Trevor Atkinson and several other members of his church burst into applause when Pell walked into the courthouse.

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"We're coming here open-minded - we'd like to hear the facts", Atkinson said.

Outside the courthouse, demonstrator Julie Cameron of Melbourne held up a painting of Mary cradling an infant Jesus.

The Commission also stated that the Church had been reluctant to investigate the reported abuse and also assisted in covering up the incidents after they were reported.

One of the most senior figures in the Vatican will on Wednesday face a court in his native Australia on multiple charges of historical sexual assault offenses.

"All along I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations", he said at the press conference at the Holy See.

The former Archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney and Ballarat priest strenuously maintains his innocence. "The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me", he said in Rome last month.

Pell is free ahead of his court hearing, when he may formally apply for bail.

Top Vatican official Cardinal George Pell heads to court on historic day