29 June 2017
Cardinal Pell charged on 'multiple accounts' of historical sex abuse
Pell has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and said the Pope has granted him a leave of absence to fight the charges
Police in Australia have charged Cardinal George Pell on multiple accounts of historical sexual abuse, a decision that will send shockwaves through the Church and that threatens to derail Pope Francis' financial reforms of the Vatican.
The 76-year-old Australian cardinal is the Pope’s economic tsar, called to Rome from Sydney by Francis to conduct a clean up of finances at the Vatican.
But today (29 June), in the early hours of the morning, police in the state of Victoria, Australia, said that Pell is facing multiple charges from "multiple complainants" of "historic sexual offences".
Police did not specify details of the charges brought against the cardinal, nor the ages of the alleged victims or say when the crimes are said to have occurred.
Cardinal Pell vehemently denied any wrongdoing in a statement given this morning.
"I'm looking forward finally to having my day in court. I am innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me," he said during a news conference at the Holy See.
He said the Pope had granted him a leave of absence to fight the charges.
The move by police puts pressure on the Pope who has called for zero tolerance of sexual abuse, and has previously promised to sack bishops who cover up abuse.
Last year Francis told reporters he would wait until Australian justice took its course before taking a position on Pell, and that his Vatican treasurer 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."
During the night, the cardinal pointed out that his doctors would advise on his travel arrangements, with Pell last year saying he was too ill to fly due to a heart condition to testify at an inquiry into institutional child abuse in Australia.
He has been ordered to appear before Melbourne Magistrates Court on 26 July.
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