Cardinal George Pell entered what was expected to be the final few days of his committal hearing on historical sexual offences in Holy Week, but he is likely to have to wait until April to find out if he will have to stand trial.
The hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court was told on 23 March that Magistrate Belinda Wallington may take several weeks to rule on whether the 76-year-old Cardinal will stand trial. The hearing is expected to adjourn on Holy Thursday and Ms Wallington's decision is expected in April.
Prosecutor Mark Gibson, SC, told the court that a number of charges against Cardinal Pell may be dropped, with one complainant medically unfit to give evidence.
Cardinal Pell, who has strenuously denied the allegations against him, has taken leave from his post as Prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy. A former Archbishop of Melbourne and then of Sydney, Cardinal Pell was charged by Victoria Police last June, though the exact charges against him have not yet been revealed.
Ms Louise Milligan, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist and author of Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, has agreed to read aloud more than 100 pages of her notes about Cardinal Pell, which his lawyer Mr Robert Richter, QC, told a court were ‘‘unreadable’’. Ms Milligan’s notes were subpoenaed by the defence.
Her book was removed from sale in the State of Victoria, where the hearing is being held, when charges were laid against the Cardinal.
The sister of one of Cardinal Pell’s accusers told the hearing on 23 March that her brother wept as he told her in 2012 or 2013 that he had been sexually assaulted by the Cardinal when a member of the St Patrick's Cathedral choir in Melbourne in the late 1990s.
Mr Richter said the time of the alleged incident, his client was already Archbishop of Melbourne and challenged the woman's story. But the woman said her brother had insisted that the alleged perpetrator was Cardinal Pell.
On the same day, the court heard that two men had alleged that Cardinal Pell had sexually offended against them at a swimming pool in Ballarat in the 1970s when they were children.
A sister of one of complainants told the court that she helped her brother make a report in 2016 of inappropriate conduct against the Cardinal.
The court heard that the woman’s brother had made further allegations of sexual misconduct in the pool's change rooms.
PICTURE: Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Melbourne ©PA