Pell was ordained in the diocese of Ballarat in 1966, where he served as a priest and later as a consulter to Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who oversaw the diocese from 1971-1997. He was appointed auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of Melbourne in 1987, and was named archbishop in 1996.
In February 2016, the cardinal testified for the third time before Australia's Royal Commission regarding claims that surfaced in 2015 accusing him of moving "known pedophile" Gerald Ridsdale, of bribing a victim of the later-defrocked priest, and of ignoring a victim's complaint.
Established in 2013, the Royal Commission is dedicated to investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
Despite having testified before the commission twice before on the same charges, Pell again offered to give his testimony, which he did via video conference from Rome.
Shortly before the hearing, abuse allegations surfaced accusing the cardinal of multiple counts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961, which he has continued to fervently deny.
Cardinal Pell has also been supported by the Vatican, which issued a June 29 communique from Holy See spokesman Greg Buke echoing Pell's statement and affirming that Pope Francis had granted the cardinal an absence from his duties "so he can defend himself."
On behalf of the Holy See, Burke also voiced respect for the Australian justice system, which "will have to decide the merits of the questions raised."
However, at the same time, he said "it is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors" and has cooperated with Australian authorities in the past, specifically with his depositions before the Royal Commission.
Moreover, the cardinal has been supportive of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and as a diocesan bishop in Australia, introduced systems and procedures "both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse."
Burke closed by noting that Cardinal Pell will no longer be attending public events while facing the charges.
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.