THE highest-ranked financial adviser to the Pope, Cardinal George Pell, attended court in Melbourne on Wednesday to face “historical” allegations of sexual abuse against children.
The 76-year-old was met by a media scrum at Melbourne’s Magistrates’ Court where his lawyer said he would plead not guilty. The details of the allegations against Pell from multiple complainants have not been made publicly available.
The national broadcaster ABC reported there was a “smattering of applause from a crowd inside the building” as Pell arrived, with some media arriving at 5am to secure a place close to the courthouse entrance.
Pell was appointed as Vatican treasurer in 2014 and relocated to Rome after being the archbishop of Sydney for more than a decade.
He was charged late last month by Victoria Police for alleged involvement in the sexual abuse of children which occurred between the 1970s and 1990s when the Cardinal was based in Ballarat.
A statement released by the Archdiocese of Sydney in June said Pell “strenuously denied all allegations” and that he was “looking forward to his day in court.”
Facing the media in Rome, Pell asserted “I am innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”
Veteran columnist David Marr wrote on Wednesday “Old timers round the Melbourne courts can’t remember the last time the public was left so much in the dark before a great criminal trial.”
Last year, Pell claimed he was too sick to return to Australia to report to the country’s Royal Commission into Child Abuse, which found some 4,000 predominantly-religious institutions implicated in the sexual abuse of children.