Vatican treasurer charged with sexual assault offenses

Cardinal George Pell, a senior adviser to Pope Francis and the Vatican treasurer, is taking leave from the Vatican to fight historical sexual assault charges in his home country of Australia. The case is the latest black mark against the Catholic Church, which has been reeling from sexual abuse scandals across several countries that date back decades. It could also have ramifications for Pope Francis, who counts Pell among his closest aides.
Australian police have not released a detailed list of charges against Pell and didn’t disclose any information about alleged victims, saying only that there were multiple charges and “multiple complainants.” Pell said he had been the victim of “relentless character assassinations,” as he held a news conference early Thursday in Rome to rebut the allegations. “I’m innocent of these charges, they are false,” Pell said. “The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”
Pell will be required to appear in the Melbourne Magistrate’s court on July 18 for a filing hearing, when a full charge list is expected to be released. Police said he was not receiving any special treatment, despite his elevated status as third-ranking official in the Holy See. “I want to be perfectly clear — the process and the procedures that have been followed in the charging of Cardinal Pell have been the same that have been applied in a whole range of historical sex offenses whenever we investigate them,” Victoria Deputy Police Commissioner Shane Patton said at a news conference. “Cardinal Pell has been treated the same as anyone else in this investigation.”
Pell said he looked forward to clearing his name. “All along, I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations. News of these charges strengthens my resolve and court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name,” Pell said. “I’m looking forward finally to having my day in court.”

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