Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell to face trial over historic abuse charge

Cardinal Pell trial decision imminent

He was not required to enter a plea during the preliminary hearing, but his lawyers have said he would plead not guilty to all charges if the court proceeds to a full trial.

Melbourne Magistrate Belinda Wallington ruled there is sufficient evidence of multiple charges against Pell, who is the third-ranking official under Pope Francis.

As the Vatican's de facto finance chief, he was granted leave by the pope to return to Australia to conduct his defense.

Cardinal Pell denied the allegations since they were laid in the middle of past year, when he said he was ready to return to Australia and leave his job of managing the finances of the Vatican and the Holy See of Rome, in a bid to clear his name.

But his lawyer, Robert Richter, argued there was no evidence to support the charges against his client.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson said none of the complainants had resiled from their allegations against Pell under cross-examination and Victoria Police Detective Sergeant Chris Reed refuted Richter's suggestions of serious flaws in the police investigation.

The court was closed to the public and media while the accusers gave evidence, as is standard practice in Victoria in sexual assault cases. Since Pell returned to Australia from the Vatican in July, he has lived in Sydney and flown to Melbourne for his court hearings.

Pell attended each day of the committal hearing, usually flanked by police officers as he entered the court. The pontiff has said he will not comment on the case until it is over.

But over the following weeks, details of the allegations against Cardinal Pell emerged. Australia's Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse - the nation's highest form of inquiry - revealed a year ago that 7 percent of Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing children in Australia over the past several decades.

His case has coincided with an Australian national inquiry into child sexual abuse, ordered in 2012 after a decade of pressure to investigate widespread allegations of institutional paedophilia.

The precise nature of the allegations, made by several people, has not been made public. Police witnesses denied that accusation.

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