Australian cardinal back in court on sexual abuse charges

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis, arrived Wednesday for an appearance in a Melbourne court where he will eventually stand trial on sexual abuse charges spanning decades.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington on Tuesday ordered Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic to appear at Victoria state County Court after ruling that prosecutors’ case was strong enough to warrant a trial by jury.

Pell is expected to face a brief preliminary hearing in which a trial date could be set.

Wallington dismissed about half the charges that had been heard in a four-week preliminary hearing. The details of the allegations and the number of charges have not been made public.

Lawyers for Pell, who is Pope Francis’ finance minister, have been fighting the allegations since before he was charged last June with sexual abuse against multiple people in Victoria from the time he was a priest in his hometown of Ballarat in the 1970s until the 1990s, when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

When Wallington asked Pell on Tuesday how he pleaded, the cardinal said in a firm voice, “Not guilty.” Wallington gave the 76-year-old permission not to stand, as is customary.

When the magistrate left the room at the end of the hearing, many people in the packed public gallery broke into applause.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke issued a statement saying: “The Holy See has taken note of the decision issued by judicial authorities in Australia regarding His Eminence Cardinal George Pell. Last year, the Holy Father granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence so he could defend himself from the accusations. The leave of absence is still in place.”

Pell’s plea marked the only words he spoke in public during the hearing. Wearing a cleric’s collar, white shirt and dark suit, he was silent as he entered and left the downtown courthouse with his lawyer, Robert Richter. More than 40 police officers maintained order on the crowded sidewalk outside.

The cardinal’s legal team found some solace in the outcome, with Richter telling the magistrate “the most vile of the allegations” had been dismissed.

Just Posted

Life and death: Mistake sent one family to funeral home, the other to hospital

Doctors told Jody Littlewolf that her daughter was brain dead and should… Continue reading

‘Still beautiful:’ Waterton Lakes National Park prepares for life after fire

WATERTON, Alta. — Parks Canada officials and businesses in Waterton say there… Continue reading

British royal family thanks those who celebrated wedding

LONDON — The royal family, blessed with fantastic weather and a buoyant… Continue reading

Cougar kills 1 mountain biker, injures 2nd near Seattle

NORTH BEND, Wash. — Two friends on a morning mountain bike ride… Continue reading

Red Deer’s indoor trampoline park announces closure

Citing mounting costs, Red Deer’s indoor trampoline park recently announced it was… Continue reading

Red Deer Silhouettes prepare for year-end show

Synchronized swimming team will perform its last show this season May 30

‘Like a warzone:’ People evacuated as fires burn through Manitoba city’s downtown

BRANDON, Man. — Leanne Marlow saw the flames engulf the building across… Continue reading

Canadians celebrate mix of pageantry, modern twists in royal wedding

As the freshly minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex embark on married… Continue reading

Maduro favoured as Venezuelans vote amid crisis

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to win a… Continue reading

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humour

SANTA FE, Texas — Hardworking. Funny. Loving. Grieving family and friends recalled… Continue reading

Record Everest climber returns, already planning next trip

KATHMANDU, Nepal — A veteran Sherpa guide who scaled Mount Everest for… Continue reading

WATCH: First Red Deer Market of the year

Hundreds came out to the first farmers market of 2018 Saturday

Canadian families among throngs of royal fans camping out for glimpse of newlyweds

WINDSOR, United Kingdom — Intense security measures, massive crowds, jet lag and… Continue reading

Swiss stun Canada, Sweden crushes US in ice hockey semis

COPENHAGEN — Switzerland stunned title favourite Canada 3-2 to reach only its… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month