SYDNEY. – Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell arrived back in Australia yesterday ahead of a court appearance later this month over historical sex abuse charges.
The 76-year-old, a top advisor to Pope Francis, touched down in Sydney and was met by security before being whisked away in a waiting car.
He has been ordered to face a Melbourne court on July 26 for a preliminary hearing on multiple sexual assault charges related to offences allegedly committed decades ago, when he was a senior cleric in Australia.
The former Sydney and Melbourne archbishop has always maintained his innocence and strenuously denies the allegations. Details of the charges have not been made public although police said they involved “multiple complainants.”
A spokesperson for Cardinal Pell said in a statement he would be making no comment, but was grateful for “the numerous messages of support he continues to receive.”
“When he was told of the charges by Victoria Police, Cardinal Pell said in Rome he totally rejected the allegations, was completely innocent of the charges and would return to Australia to vigorously defend himself and clear his name,” said the statement.
Cardinall Pell, unofficially considered the number three in the Vatican hierarchy, said from Rome after being charged late last month that he was “looking forward finally to having my day in court.”
He has been granted a leave of absence by the Pope, who made clear the cardinal would not be forced to resign his post as head of the Vatican’s powerful economic ministry. – AFP.