MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell arrived at a court in his native Australia on Wednesday for his first appearance to face historical sex charges as the most senior Roman Catholic official to face such accusations.
Pell, 76, a top adviser to Pope Francis, was escorted into Melbourne Magistrates’ Court by police through a large crowd of media, protesters and supporters.
Australian police charged Pell last month with “historical sexual offences” from multiple complainants.
Pell has previously said he was looking forward to his day in court to fight charges he said are false.
Protesters shouted as Pell climbed the steps of the courthouse. He did not speak to waiting media.
Pell’s appearance in court was expected to be brief as prosecutors formally file the charges against him. Australian court rules do not require him to enter a formal plea. A full trial was expected at a later date.
Pell is on a leave of absence from his Vatican role as Francis’ economy minister, which he started in 2014.
In testimony to an Australian government-backed inquiry into child abuse last year, Pell said the Church had made “catastrophic” choices by refusing to believe abused children, shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish, and relying too heavily on the counsel of priests to solve the problem.
Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Jane Wardell and Paul Tait