Cardinal George Pell has been charged with multiple historical sex crimes
Cardinal George Pell is the Vatican’s de facto treasury minister and is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged with sexual abuse.
He faces “multiple charges in respect of historic sexual offences” from multiple complainants, said police in the Australian state of Victoria, where Cardinal Pell was a country priest in the 1970s.
The police did not specify the charges against Cardinal Pell, 76, nor the ages of the alleged victims nor when the crimes were alleged to have occurred.
The Australian Catholic Church said in a statement that Cardinal Pell strenuously denied the charges and planned to return to Australia to “clear his name”.
“He said he is looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously,” the statement said. It also said his doctors would advise on his travel arrangements.
The charges pose a dilemma for the Pope, who has vowed zero tolerance for such offences
Cardinal Pell angered victims at a government inquiry into institutional child abuse in Australia last year by saying he was too sick to fly home, testifying instead from Rome.
He was ordered to appear before Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18. The cardinal was due to make a statement at the Vatican later on Thursday.
The latest development in the long-running Pell case piled pressure on the Holy Father to make good on promises to sack bishops found guilty of abuse, or of covering it up.
His Holiness told reporters last year he would wait until Australian justice took its course before taking a position on Cardinal Pell, and that his financial controller since 2014 should not undergo trial by media.
“It’s in the hands of the justice system and one cannot judge before the justice system,” the Pope said at the time. “After the justice system speaks, I will speak.”
Cardinal Pell told the Australian inquiry last year the Church had made…